I think it's a fairly common hike to do from the Postpile to the Falls, especially for those of us who hate waiting around for a bus. The hike itself is about 2.5 miles, then you'll need to tack on just under another mile and a half to get back to the bus stop at Reds Meadow. I do recommend the hike in the direction from the Postpile to the Falls, since it's a slow downward slope (although you will pay for this with a steep half mile climb at the Falls trailhead to get back to the bus.) The walk is fairly pleasant - you start out in the woods, emerge into an area damaged by fire, cross a few streams, and end up at the overlook to the falls. It took us about an hour. Be sure to pack water and sunscreen.
So named for the rainbow given off as the water cascades over the dropoff. Unfortunately, you have to get there before shadows start to cast over the river, or you'll miss out. We got there to see a small tail of the rainbow. The waterfall is pretty impressive - over 100 feet tall and fed by the San Joaquin River, it gives off a nice little thunder. You get to view from an overlook - the trail does continue down so you can get a little closer, but that would add some extra hiking, which we didn't have time for. If you're going to be at the monument, it's definitely worth the time to mosey over and check this out.
The two most popular things to see in the Monument are Rainbow Falls and the Postpile. These actually were the only two requested stops out of 10 possible stops for our nearly full shuttle bus. Once you get off at the correct shuttle stop, you can collect a map and newspaper at the ranger station, and then set off for a very short hike to the Postpile. The trail is fairly flat, and under a half mile. If you're looking for something a little more strenuous, you can hike to the top of the Postpile. We decided to circle around the front instead and save our energy to hike to the Falls.
I think this is a fairly cool monument - it looks very similar to Devil's Tower in my mind. I found the hexagon shape of the columns to be ineat. In the end, it doesn't take long at all to wander around the monument itself - it was a much longer trip to get there on the bus.
The real draw of this area is the hike to Rainbow Falls. This is a 5 mile hike to what are supposed to be the best falls in the area. I've seen pictures of these falls, which drop about a hundred feet and reflect a rainbow like prism which appears in the mist of the falls, hence the name, and I agree. Unfortunately, I didn't make it out there, as neither time nor soreness permitted any hiking on this visit. Other options include the 3 mile roundtrip to Minaret Falls as well as extended trips into the Sierra backcountry, including Minaret Lake and other remote regions.
Although the monument is not an all day event, this is a beautiful area. It gets little use due to the fact that it is only open a few months a year and because the shuttle system reduces traffic during the brief summer season. For these reasons, it is quite pristine. I'd definitely recommend spending some time browsing the trails and just enjoying the beauty of the area.
From the bus stop, it is less than a mile along a relatively flat trail to the base of the monument. There are a few steps along the way, especially towards the end, making it difficult for those with physical limitations and not accessible for the disabled.
At the base, you can see the long cylindrical columns that, well, make this a monument. These are the largest columns of basalt found anywhere. That may impress you more than it did me. I just thought it was an interesting sight.
There is an additional trail that leads to the top. From there, you can see a great view of the Sierras. Since I visited this place the day after Mount Whitney, a trail heading upwards did not appeal to me all that much so I skipped it.
Take the shuttle bus to Stop No. 6 and walk approximately 1/2-mile to reach the base of this very unique geologic formation, considered one of the best examples of columnar basalt lava in the entire world. The main sight is a view of the 60-foot vertical columns and the pile of rocks beneath it. Be sure to take the trail to the top of the Postpile and see the hexagonal tops of the columns that were polished smooth by glaciers during the last ice age.
After your visit, go back to the ranger station at Shuttle Stop No. 6 or continue on the trail to the Rainbow Falls trail. Rainbow Falls is approximately 2 miles from the Postpile. There is another outcropping of columns not far from the base of the main outcrop. If you take the loop trail to the top of the columns and down the other side, you'll go right by this additional outcrop. Definitely worth checking out.
Named because of the rainbow that is consistently formed from the spray of the falls, this waterfall on the San Joaquin River plunges 101 feet over a lava-formed ledge. From the overlook the rainbow is best viewed from midday on. The photo attached to this tip was taken at 4:30pm. You can also hike down a series of steps to the river and the base of the falls. Just be forewarned that if you go down then you'll have to make the same climb back up!
Rainbow Falls is accesible either by taking the shuttle to Stop No. 9 and hiking 1/2-mile to the falls overlook, or by hiking 2 miles from the Postpile. If you do the latter, the entire hike from Stop No. 6 to Stop No. 9 is approximately 4 miles.
While it is somewhat of a hassle to have to take a bus from the Mammoth Mountain ski area to reach the Devil's Postpile National Monument, the views from the bus ride along the way are great. You get unobstructed views of the peaks of the Sierra Mountains. Bring your camera and be ready to take pictures!
The Devil's Postpile is an unusual rock formation consisting on hexagonal columns of basalt that were formed in an ancient volcanic eruption and then exposed through erosion. It forms the centerpiece of the Devil's Postpile National Monument.
One of the hiking trails is about 8 miles long, and will take you around Sotcher Lake, through meadows and the past the Postpile. Its an easy hike, but long. Pack a lunch and lots of water, and make a day of it. There are many beautiful places to stop and rest.
As we were feeding the Belding Ground Squirrels (which we weren't supposed to), several of these Stellar's Jays came along and kept stealing the peanuts from the squirrels. They were very bold, too, and weren't scared off easily - cheeky!
You just never know what's going to walk through your campsite! One day, as I was cooking my freshly caught trout, Bambi wandered very close to my site. I quickly turned off the campstove, removed the pan, burned my hand and grabbed my camera. She got within 100' of me, and we just eyed each other for a while, before she calmly walked off into the woods!
I finished cooking my trout, and had a wonderful dinner with a big, beaming smile on my face!
These erect columns of basalt lava are the main attraction of Devil's Postpile National Monument. At about 60 feet high, these columns look like huge pipes of a church organ.
It started about 100,000 years ago, when a volcano erupted and lava flowed to this area filling the valley. The cooling of the lava caused it to crack, Then glaciers scraped through this area and exposed the lava's unique formation. The smooth top of the columns was polished by the flow of ice.
Join the ranger talk. First you walk with the rangers to the top of the postpile. It's a fairly short, pleasant walk with a little uphill. At the top, the hexagonal pattern of the columns can clearly be seen. Why are they hexagons? I guess the same reason ice crystals are hexagons; it's the secret of the nature.
Rainbow Falls is so named because a rainbow is always seen around the falls. You can see a small portion of it in the attached photo. Another unique feature about the falls is that, the water actually drops 100 feet over a cliff of vocanic lava columns. In the photo you can see the rock formation next to the falls is similar to the postpile.
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