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Devils Postpile National Monument - Guide to California's Devils Postpile National Monument

Rainbow Falls in Devils Postpile National Monument

Rainbow Falls in Devils Postpile National Monument

The longer fragments of basalt at the base of the cliff are much larger than a person at Devils Postpile National Monument

The longer fragments of basalt at the base of the cliff are much larger than a person at Devils Postpile National Monument

Devils Postpile National Monument is located near Mammoth Mountain in extreme northeastern Madera County in eastern California. It was established in 1911, and protects Devils Postpile, an unusual formation of columnar basalt.

Devils Postpile National Monument Map

Map of Devils Postpile National Monument

Geography of Devils Postpile National Monument

Devils Postpile National Monument contains 798 acres (3.23 km2) and includes two main tourist attractions: Devils Postpile (a columnar basalt formation); and Rainbow Falls, a waterfall on the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River. In addition, the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail pass through the monument.

Established in 1911 by presidential proclamation, Devils Postpile National Monument protects and preserves the Devils Postpile formation, the 101-foot high Rainbow Falls, and pristine mountain scenery. The formation is a rare sight in the geologic world and ranks as one of the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt. Its columns tower 60 feet high and display an unusual symmetry.

Attractions in Devils Postpile National Monument

Naturally, one of the main reasons to visit the Monument is the Postpile formation itself.

Approximately 100,000 years ago, a lava flow erupted two miles upstream from the location of today's Monument. As it flowed down the Valley, it eventually ran into an obstruction which served as a dam to the lava's path. Pooling up to as deep as 400 feet behind the natural dam, the lava cooled. Conditions were such that the lava--that was incredibly uniform in its mineral composition--cooled at a very slow rate. As it cooled, it contracted and cracked, forming hexagonal columns. 80,000 years later, a glacier flowed through the same valley, overriding the formation and eventually revealing the sides and tops of the columns. Glacial polish can still be seen today at the top of the formation.

Rainbow Falls at Devils Postpile National Monument

Rainbow Falls at Devils Postpile National Monument

Rainbow Falls is a spectacular waterfall that exists near the southern end of the monument on the San Joaquin River. The river changes in character many times throughout its journey through the monument, evolving along its course from a series of broad low-gradient meanders to scattered pools and fast-flowing rapids, cascades, and falls. Just a 2.5 mile walk from the Ranger Station, Rainbow Falls is the highest water fall on the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin river.

Plunging 101-feet down to the turbulent water below, the falls are aptly named for the many rainbows that appear in its mist throughout sunny summer days.

Visitors interested in a moderate day-hike can make a loop, embarking from the Ranger Station's trailhead to the Falls and returning via Shuttle Bus Stop 9, the Rainbow Falls Trailhead. The shuttle bus, which runs approximately every 20 or 30 minutes, can then return hikers to the Monument's Ranger Station from the Rainbow Falls trailhead.

Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen for every member in your hiking group as the walk to the Falls is very hot, dry, and exposed.

Devils Postpile National Monument best harbor views panorama 
        that stretches from Mexico to the snow-capped mountains east of Los Angeles

Minaret Lake lies in the heart of the Ansel Adams Wilderness

The Postpile also serves as a starting point for many backcountry trips. Surrounded by both the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wildernesses, the Monument provides a portal to some of the most pristine backcountry destinations in the region.

Permits are required for all overnight trips in wilderness areas. While Devils Postpile National Monument can issue permits through a special arrangement with the Inyo National Forest, it is best for visitors planning on a backpack trip in the area to contact the Inyo's Wilderness Permit office directly. The most current regulations and trail quotas can be found by visiting the Inyo National Forest's website or by phoning the Inyo's Wilderness Permit Office at (760) 873-2485.

Camping in Devils Postpile National Monument

Devils Postpile National Monument Campgroud Map

Devils Postpile National Monument Campgroud Map

The Monument features a 21-site first-come, first-served campground.


Campsites cost $14.00/night. For Senior and Access pass holders, the fee is $7.00/night. The fee can be paid by cash or check in US Dollars. Credit cards are not accepted. (Please note that the campsite fee is in addition to the standard amenity entrance fee.)


Reservations are not available.

Operating Season

The campground typically opens in mid-June and stays open through Columbus Day Weekend in October.


The campground features flush toilets and running water. Each site is equipped with a picnic table, firepit, and bear-proof locker. Showers and RV hook-ups are not available. The nearest showers are available at Reds Meadow Campground and are open to the public.

RVs & Campers

Only a few of the monument's campsites can accommodate campers and trailers over 30 feet in length. (On average, most site lengths range between 20 and 25 feet.) Anything larger than that is not advisable. In addition, the small size of the campground and its two loops makes negotiating turns with an extra long vehicle very challenging.

Rules and Regulations

Campsites are limited to six people per site per night and two vehicles. Additional vehicles may be parked in the overnight parking lot just outside of the monument boundary (approximately a 3-5 minute walk).

Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. During this time campers should avoid excessive noise, generator use, and other activities that would disturb neighboring campers.

Tents must be set up on the tent pads provided and must not be set up on any vegetation. Vehicles should not be parked on vegetation or in any way that blocks the flow of traffic.

Pets are allowed in the campground, but must remain on a leash or otherwise physically restrained at all times.

Camping must be limited to 14 days per stay.

Fires are only permitted in designated fire rings. Please make sure all fires are completely out and cool to the touch before leaving your site.

Proper food storage is required. Anything with an odor must be kept in the bear proof lockers which are located at each site.

Sites must be paid for within 30 minutes of occupation and property at that site must not be left unattended for more than 24 hours.

Getting a Site

The campground at Devils Postpile does not usually fill except for on the busiest holiday weekends. If you are looking for a site on July 4th weekend or Labor Day weekend, it is advised that you arrive before noon the Friday prior to the holiday weekend.

Monday-Thursday tend to be the slowest days in the campground and sites are usually available. The B-Loop fills first, as that loop is closest to the river. On an average summer weekend (Friday-Sunday), the campground usually does not fill until after noon.

Check out time is at 2 p.m. and all sites must be paid for within 1/2 hour of occupying the site. Once you have chosen and paid for a site, if you need to switch sites for some reason, please do not do so without notifying a ranger or leaving a note in the fee box.

Other Campgrounds Near Devils Postpile National Monument

Outside of the monument, there are seven Forest Service campgrounds located within Reds Meadow Valley. From north to south, these are: Agnew Meadows, Agnew Meadows Group, Agnew Meadows Horse, Upper Soda Springs, Pumice Flat, Pumice Flat Group, Minaret Falls, and Reds Meadow campgrounds. Sites in these campgrounds are $20 per site per night.

All of these campgrounds are first-come, first-served with the exception of the Agnew Group and Horse Camp as well as Pumice Group.

For more information on these campgrounds, please visit the Inyo National Forest website.

To make reservations for sites at Agnew Group and Horse Camp, as well as Pumice Group, please call Reserve USA at 1-877-444-6777.

Summer Activities in Devils Postpile National Monument

Hiking in Devils Postpile National Monument

Devils Postpile National Monument Map

Valley trailheads take visitors to either the Ansel Adams or John Muir Wilderness Areas where many hiking adventures await.

There are about 8 miles of trails in Devils Postpile National Monument. The trails offer a variety of opportunities for all fitness levels. Expanding your hiking outside the boundaries of the Monument will take you into the High Sierra of the Ansel Adams Wilderness. If hiking with your pet, make sure it is on a leash at all times within the Monument. All of the following distances are from the Devils Postpile trail head.

Devils Postpile: An easy 0.4 mile one way hike to the base. The top of the Postpile is another 15 minutes uphill.

Rainbow Falls: From the Ranger Station, this is a rolling, mostly downhill, 2.5 mile one way hike to Rainbow Falls. This hike can be hot and dry in the summer, so bring plenty of water.

Minaret Falls: This is an easy 1.4 mile hike to a cascading waterfall just outside the Monument boundary.

Ansel Adams Wilderness: There are multiple destinations within day hiking distance from Devils Postpile in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Minaret and Fern Lakes are just a couple of the destinations you could visit. Ask a Ranger for more information.

Fishing in Devils Postpile National Monument

The San Joaquin River is a designated Wild Trout River with ample fishing opportunities for all abilities. With a valid California fishing license, anglers can keep up to five fish. Venturing further from the parking lot, away from Soda Springs Meadow, will give you a bit more solitude, but there is plenty of fishing near the parking lot. If you do head out along the river bank to fish, please use established trails and limit your impact. Please help preserve the river for wildlife and other anglers by packing out all trash and fishing line.

Other fishing opportunities are available at nearby Sotcher and Starkweather Lakes. For more information on regulations and limits, please visit the California Department of Fish and Game site.

Wildlife Watching in Devils Postpile National Monument

While not quite the Serengetti of the Sierra, Devils Postpile does boast 97 species of birds and all of the classic Sierran charismatic megafauna, such as black bears, coyotes, mule deer, and pine martens. The wildlife in the Postpile tends to be primarily crepuscular, meaning active and dawn and dusk. For wildlife watchers, the best time to visit is early morning or in the evening.

When viewing wildlife in the Monument, remember, all animals are wild. Please do your part to keep them that way by viewing them from a distance. This will keep you and the wildlife safe. For more information about Devils Postpile's wildlife, visit our Nature and Science page.

Horseback Riding and Stock Use in Devils Postpile National Monument

Horses have long been an important part of exploring the Sierra. Commercial pack trips are available in the valley through the Reds Meadow Pack Station, but visitors are welcome to bring their own stock. The trail from the ranger station to Devils Postpile is not open to stock use, but there are several other options. There is no stock trailer parking at Devils Postpile National Monument, but visitors may use the Rainbow Falls, Agnew Meadows or Red Meadow parking areas. Click here for a complete list of regulations regarding horse and stock use.

Cycling and Mountain Biking

Road Biking

Cycling the road into the Red's Meadow Valley is certainly a scenic adventure. If you are interested in biking into Reds Meadow, please consider the following advisories:

To avoid head-on collisions, do not pass stopped or slowed traffic as they may be waiting for an oncoming vehicle to pass safely.
On the downhill stretch into Reds Meadow, the road speed limit is 15 mph. Under California State Law, this speed limit applies to both cyclists and vehicles.
Downhill traffic must yield to uphill traffic and must stay to the right.
The road is narrow, winding and steep. Make sure your brakes are in good shape before beginning your descent.
Riding into the valley during peak visitation times (11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) is not recommended.
Bikes will be loaded and unloaded only at the Adventure Center and at Red’s Meadow Resort if space is available.
Buses can only take 2 bicycles per bus and only if the bus has space available.
Be advised: there is a speed bump on the road into Devils Postpile National Monument.
Helmets are recommended for all riders and are required for riders under 18 years of age.
All cyclists ride at their own risk. Please look after both your safety and the safety of others on the road.
If cyclists ride the shuttle buses out of the valley, they must pay the transportation fee. Those who cycle in and out of the valley are exempt from the fee.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is generally not permitted in the Reds Meadow Valley and is not permitted anywhere in Devils Postpile National Monument. The one exception to this is the Starkweather Trail, which starts either at Starkweather Lake or at the Minaret Vista. Mountain biking is only allowed on this trail AFTER the shuttle buses have stopped running for the season, which is generally the Wednesday after Labor Day. This is also a popular hiking trail, so ride cautiously. The nearby town of Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding Forest Service land offers endless mountain biking possibilities. Click here for more information about mountain biking in the surrounding area.

Winter Activities in Devils Postpile National Monument

Snowshoeing and Skiing

Devils Postpile National Monument Late winter and early spring can be great times to ski into the monument, with warmer, longer days, and lower avalanche danger

Late winter and early spring can be great times to ski into the monument, with warmer, longer days, and lower avalanche danger.

The Reds Meadow Valley, although closed to vehicles in the winter, is available to backcountry skiers and snowshoers. This is a true winter wilderness experience and travel into the valley can be hazardous. For those with proper avalanche safety skills and physical conditioning, however, the valley offers outstanding touring and provides a gateway to the High Sierra backcountry. There are NO facilities available in the valley in the winter and all travelers should be prepared to be self sufficient.

Snowmobiles are allowed on the Reds Meadow Road, but are not permitted on the road to Devils Postpile or anywhere within the boundaries of the monument. Please be respectful of this regulation.

Remember that avalanches are frequent on the Reds Meadow Road. Traveling alone is not recommended in the winter months due to the potential avalanche hazard. Anyone traveling into the valley should be equipped with and know how to use minimum safety equipment, including the following:

Avalanche beacon
Collapsible shovel
Avalanche probe
Extra food and water
Extra warm clothing
Ski/snowshoe repair kit
Winter travel in the valley can be a beautiful and rewarding experience. Research your trip ahead of time, checking the weather and avalanche forecasts. Check with the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center for updated reports throughout the winter.

Climate in Devils Postpile National Monument

Below is the current temperature and weather forcast for Devils Postpile National Monument

Location of Devils Postpile National Monument

The Devils Postpile National Monument can be contacted at (760) 934-2289. For the location use following GPS cordinates of Devils Postpile National Monument 37°37'28"N 119°5'4"W. The official address of Devils Postpile National Monument is Devils Postpile National Monument, P.O. Box 3999, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546. However, use following address to get driving directions to Devils Postpile National Monument Minaret Summit Rd, Oakhurst-North Fork, CA. and the map is shown below:

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Here is a detailed list of other National Parks of California besides Devils Postpile National Monument.

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