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Devils Postpile National Park


It may have just closed for the season but you can take a virtual trip now to the most impressive geologic wonder that is the Devil’s Postpile National Monument in Northern California. This is where you can see very rare and one of the best displays of columnar basalt on the planet, natural columns of lava flows that slowly cooled into unique 60 foot tall vertical towers. Viewed from close up or afar, these hexagonal shaped pillars offer some of the most scenic natural art works of mother nature and have been protected since 1911 by presidential proclamation.

The Devil’s Postpile was formed about 100,000 years ago when a lava flow eruption two miles up was obstructed and the flow was forced to pool as deep as 400 feet and cooled at such a slow rate that resulted in perfectly uniformed mineral composition of hexagonal columns. Glaciers flowed 80,000 years later leaving a natural polish that is still visible as you can see in our slideshow.

A trip to the Postpile would not be complete without seeing the adjacent Rainbow Falls. It’s only a 2.5 mile hike from the Ranger Station and worth it. Rainbow Falls is the highest waterfall, dropping 101 feet, on the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River. And it gets its name for a reason, the lava black background spectacularly frames vivid rainbows that appear through the mist of the falls on sunny days. After the hike to the falls you can return via a shuttle bus at the trailhead. As with any hike, be sure to bring along plenty of water and sun protection.

Located in the Sierra Nevada this area can be subjected to brutal winter weather with 20 feet of snow not uncommon. That is why the roads are closed for the winter season and reopen in the spring.

Hikers and backpackers can easily access the John Muir Trail and Ansel Adams Trail which both intersect at the monument. Permits are required for all overnight trips.

The beauty of Rainbow Falls combined with the geology of the Devil’s Postpile makes for a most relaxing and worthwhile trip.

Let’s go!

Lisa's book on our early adventures and her tact to balance work life and cave exploration