Most people heading to Devils Postpile National Monument are there to see the namesake geologic formation, a dark cliff of columnar basalt located just a few miles west of the popular resort town of Mammoth Lakes, California. If they're ambitious, some of them might choose to walk south a mile or two to see Rainbow Falls, a beautiful cascade along the Middle Fork San Joaquin River. But despite all the thousands of tourists who ride the tour buses through the valley each year to take in these sights, few of them ever head west into the heart of the even more spectacular Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Their loss is your gain. Just a few miles away from the crowds is some of the most awe-inspiring scenery to be found in the wilderness. The trailhead leads to the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as the southern approach to Cecile Lake. A number of worthwhile peaks can be accessed from here, including the Minarets, Iron Mountain, and the peaks of the Silver Divide.
There is developed camping near the trailhead; see the links below for details. Also nearby is the Reds Meadow
For further information, also see the main Devils Postpile page
From Mammoth Lakes, follow SR203 past Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Follow SR203 over Minaret Summit and down into the valley of the Middle Fork San Joaquin River. Continue past the turnoff for Agnew Meadows
for another 4 miles south on SR203 to the end of the road at Devils Postpile.
Day use parking is located near the ranger cabin, overnight parking is a quarter mile north along the road.
As with Agnew Meadows, be forewarned that the road is closed to passenger vehicles during the day. See the red tape section below for details.
The Devils Postpile trailhead is subject to all the same red tape as Agnew Meadows
Wilderness permits are required for overnight stays in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Please consult the main Ansel Adams Wilderness page
for details on obtaining permits for the Devils Postpile trailhead. No permits are required for dayhikes.
Minaret Road (SR 203) is closed to passenger vehicles beyond Minaret Summit from 7am to 7.30pm each day. Between those times, visitors are required to ride a shuttle bus ($7/person) from the Mammoth Mountain Inn into Devils Postpile National Monument. (See here
for details). The gates are unmanned outside these hours, and it is possible to drive in if you need to get an early start. The shuttle bus runs throughout the valley; it's worth noting that the bus can be ridden for free within here, even if you've driven in, allowing for convenient shuttles between trailheads.
If you exit the Reds Meadow area when the gates are manned, you must pay the same per-person fee. Note that despite the fact that the area is managed by the NPS, NPS park passes are not accepted here! If this offends you, as it does me, it's possible to turn left before the gate to reach the Minaret Vista point, and then exit from the vista point on the other side of the gate, avoiding the attendant altogether.
When To Visit
The trailhead is most easily reached in the summer months (and moreover, most easily done so in early morning or late at night--see the red tape above for details).
Minaret Summit Road is closed from the middle of October until sometime in the spring, typically around late May or early June depending on the winter's snowfall. During these months, it would be necessary to park at Mammoth Mountain ski resort (you must obtain a special parking permit from the resort if parking there overnight), and hike in about 8 miles to the usual summer trailhead. Devils Postpile is a popular snowmobile destination in winter, so don't expect solitude on the hike in.
External LinksInyo National Forest - Reds Meadow area campgrounds
SR 203 road conditions
NPS Devils Postpile National Monument information
climber.org driving directions