Devils Postpile National Monument is one of those places that had been on my list of MUST sees for a while. The internet search results for images of the Postpile are spectacular and that’s what really got me to put it up near the top of my list. The 798 acre National Monument was mainly established to preserve the 60 foot high rock formation referred to as the “Postpile” but the Monument also contains the 101 foot high Rainbow Falls.
The National Monument averages a little over 108,000 visitors per year, and although that does not sound like a lot of people, but when you consider the road in is closed during the winter, and most people are required to take the shuttle unless camping in the monument, it quickly becomes a busy place. But don’t let that deter you from visiting. It’s a National Monument for a reason.
Park in the ski area parking. There is both pay and free parking areas. Of course the free parking is a considerable distance away from the gondola building, but you plan on hiking anyways right? Well, with two young kids, we paid for the convenience of having our vehicle located nearby the shuttle pickup and dropoff. The reason I’m showing you the street view image is because I don’t want you to do what we (and quite a few others) ended up doing. Here’s the scenario…People are crawling out of cars and grabbing their stuff and the shuttle bus shows up. We knew in advance we had to purchase the tickets, but others were trying to get on the shuttles without them. Of course they were told to go get the tickets at the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center. Everyone then follows each other to the Adventure Center and spends the next 15 minutes trying to figure out where to buy the tickets. The next shuttle comes bye and you still haven’t gotten your ticket yet. You finally find out that you have to go to the Gondola building adjacent to the Adventure Center. It’s actually in a little ski or bike shop on the ground floor, and finally, after you and the rest of the herd have your tickets, you go back to the street to wait for the shuttle. The shuttle arrives and often quickly fills up. Then you have to wait for the next shuttle. I am trying to forewarn you and help navigate you to where you need to be. I don’t want you to live the above scenario as we, and countless others I’m sure, did. Now you’ll save time by knowing exactly where to go and what to do, and be on the shuttle before everybody else even figures out where they are on the map.
Once on the shuttle prepare for a winding and jarring ride. The bus goes pretty fast and the road is narrow. Riders are tossed from side to side as the bus takes out low hanging leafy branches. I hope you don’t get car or bus sick. The potential is there. The various types of scenery heading into the Monument is really enjoyable. Ride the shuttle bus until you reach the #6 stop.
From here, the hike is very short . Less than 1/2 a mile. (.4 Mi according to the trail sign).
The hike is very flat and well maintained. There were actually people pushing children in strollers on the gravelly surface.
As you wind your way through a variety of trees and open areas you will see various wild flowers in the summer, and catch very nice views of the San Joaquin River.
Unless you have small children, you will quickly find your self at the base of the Postpile.
This is where you can jockey for a position to have your family photo taken. We found no shortage of people to ask to take our family photo in front of the Postpile and I expect that during the summer months you will find the same.
But… by getting a little creative with where you take your photo from and your camera angle, you may just get a Devils Postpile money shot of your own.