Postpile / Rainbow Falls (dayhike)

Trip Date: 6/1/2015

Location: Devils Postpile National Monument

Permit/Pass: Day Pass $7/adult, $4/child 3-15, Children under 2 free

Trails: NPS Map 

Directions: From U.S. Highway 395, drive 4 miles west on S.R. 203 into the town of Mammoth Lakes, then turn right on Minaret Rd. Follow this windy road up to,

- (if before or after shuttle season) Minaret Vista and pay the fee to enter, then head down the paved, steep, narrow mountain road. About 8 miles brings you to the Ranger Station and parking area for the Postpone and Rainbow Falls trail. The trailhead is next to the information office on the west side of the turnaround. 

- (during shuttle season) the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area where you'll have to pick up the mandatory shuttle. The shuttle bus operates from mid-June through the Wednesday after Labor Day.

Synopsis: Combining two excellent attractions, the hike to the Postpile and Rainbow Falls is a great family activity (not that it's not also great for everyone else). Rainbow Falls is beautiful and energizing, and be sure to hike up behind the Postpile as well as along the west face (which will not be sunlit 'til later in the day anyway).

Type: Out and back

Distance: 5.3 miles

Elevation: Min. - 7245', Max. - 7724'


Rating: Moderate (factors: altitude, heat)

Trail Notes: The trail is nicely shaded for the first half of the hike out. It's exposed after that, so be sure to bring sunscreen and water.


Postpile / Rainbow Falls - Devils Postpile NM


Turn by Turn:

  -- The trail heads south on a flat easy grade before beginning to climb just a bit into the forest. It's just under a half mile or so of walking next to the San Joaquin River before you reach the Postpile itself. Here you have the option of climbing up over the top of the formation or following the lower trail along its face. We opted to head up to the top, reasoning that we'd hit the lower section on the way back when the sun was higher and there would be more light.

  -- As you drop down from the short hike over the formation you rejoin the trail. Turn left (south) here to continue out to Rainbow Falls. There are a few crossing trails along the way (notable the Pacific Crest Trail). These make for nice diversions, especially to see the river, but remain alert to your course.

  -- After traveling through open, and some burned, areas you come to a junction. Continuing straight on the trail takes the hiker to Fish Creek. Turn right (west) here, to cover the short distance to Rainbow Falls. Stay right on the hiker (as opposed to horse) path.

  -- There are several viewing areas at the upper falls. There is also a step set of stair down to the base of the falls. This offers another perspective as well as a bit of an ozone high.

  -- When you head back, remember to take the left (north) turn to return to the trailhead. There is a large Y junction with an interpretive sign that you passed earlier. The right fork heads up to Red's Meadow. Stay left to continue back to the Postpile.

  -- Upon returning to the formation stay left to hike past the front face, then continue north to return to the trailhead.


Photo Gallery: 

Video: Youtube