Devils Postpile National Monument

If you’re ever in the Eastern Sierras near Mammoth Lakes, you’ve gotta check out Devils Postpile.  This place is incredible, and unlike anywhere else I’ve visited in California.  The only other place I can personally compare it to is the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland.  Both places have these fascinating basalt hexagonal columns.  You have to see them to truly appreciate them.

What’s so special about Devils Postpile?  Volcanic activity less than 100,000 years ago created the geometric columns, but they wouldn’t be visible to us if it weren’t for a glacier that, 12-20,000 years ago, flowed through the valley.   The ice sliced away one side of the formation, thus  exposing the columns we see today.  The cliff is made up of 60-foot-tall columns, towering above the trail.   Between the columns and the trail is rubble from columns that have broken off and crashed to the ground, breaking into pieces.  To truly appreciate the shape of the columns, you have to walk to the top, so you can see the formations from above.  They look like a tile floor made up of hexagonal and pentagonal shapes.

October is a great time to go to visit.  The crowds have left for the season, and it’s now OK to drive into the park without using the shuttle.  Plus, the weather isn’t as hot as it is during the summer.  When we were there the first week of October, the autumn colors were gorgeous.

Visiting with kids?  The hike to Devils Postpile from the parking lot is less than a mile round trip (a bit more if you’d like to hike to the top, which I highly recommend).  Upon entry to the park, the ranger offered us a Junior Ranger Activity Book (free of charge).  My five-year-old had fun completing the activities.  The “geology rocks” activity was a favorite, which had the child either draw or describe the posts from both the bottom and from the top, and then asked them what shapes they found (mostly hexagons, though we did also find some pentagons).  When the child completes the required number of activities for his/her age, then head to the Ranger Station and show the ranger the completed work.  The ranger will have your child make the pledge to preserve and protect our national parks, and, in return, the child will receive a Devils Postpile Junior Ranger badge.  Great fun for kids!

Interested in going?  Devils Postpile is usually open from mid-June to mid-October.  To visit during the busy season, from June through September, you must take the shuttle bus (for information about purchasing and boarding shuttle buses, click here… Fees & Reservations).  When we visited in October, the shuttle buses were no longer running, so we were able to drive in (17 mile drive from Mammoth Lakes on Calif 203, $10.00 entry fee).  Visit the National Parks official site for more information… Devils Postpile National Monument.

Visiting the area?  You may also enjoy the following posts:


  1. I know I went to DP as a child, but that’s been a while! I had hopes we’d see it again when we were there in September and we ran out of time. I am glad to hear that it is still so accessible. I wasn’t sure. Great post!


  2. Great photos. While we were there recently I saw a young boy who looked so much like your son and a woman with him that looked somewhat like you. I stopped to ask her if she wrote a blog and was disappointed to learn that I was not speaking to Nature Mom. We enjoyed our visit to Devil’s Postpile.


    1. The minute I walked out onto the Giants Causeway (10 years ago), I immediately thought of Devils Postpile (which I’d visited as a child). Not until I did some research for this post did I find out they truly are similar!


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