Devils Postpile is more than an impressive bunch of rocks. On the banks of the San Joaquin River, amid granite peaks and crystalline mountain lakes, the 800-acre park is a gateway to a hiker's paradise. Short paths lead from here to the top of the postpile and to Soda Springs, a spring of cold carbonated water.
A longer hike (about 1.3 miles) from the separate Rainbow Falls Trail head will take you to spectacular Rainbow Falls, where the middle fork of the San Joaquin plunges 101 feet from a lava cliff. From the trail, a stairway and short trail lead to the base of the falls and swimming holes below.
The Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail (which connects Yosemite National Park with Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks) run through here. Named after the conservationist and author who is largely credited with saving Yosemite and popularizing the Sierra Nevada as a place worth preserving, the 211-mile John Muir Trail traverses some of the most difficult, remote parts of the Sierra. You can access it from two points in Devils Postpile, either near the ranger station or from the Rainbow Falls trail head. From here, you can hike as far as your feet will take you north or south. Note: Mountain bikes are not permitted on trails.
While most visitors stay in or around Mammoth Lakes, the monument does maintain a 21-site campground with piped water, flush toilets, fire pits, and picnic tables on a first-come, first-served basis. Rates are $8 per night. Bears are common in the park, so take proper food-storage measures. Leashed pets are permitted on trails and in camp. Call the National Park Service (tel. 760/934-2289, or 760/872-4881 Nov-May; www.nps.gov/depo) for details. Other nearby U.S. Forest Service campgrounds include Red's Meadow and Upper Soda Springs.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.