Hiking to the lava rock formation at Devils Postpile to see the radiant sight of Rainbow Falls near the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is very accessible even for new hikers.
It is certainly one of the most tourist-friendly, scenic and welcoming day trips you will find in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains – and we consider it a must. You get to view some of the most exhilarating local sights on a trail that most people can easily manage.
Both attractions can be seen on an approximate 4.5-mile hike point-to-point with a minor elevation gain of about 600 feet. You can anticipate it taking about 2 to 3 hours, including periods to rest and take in the sights and sounds.
Hiking to Devils Postpile then Rainbow Falls and Reds Meadow
Although there are multiple approaches you can take, one of the easiest routes is to hike to Devils Postpile from the ranger station (0.4 miles), then to Rainbow Falls (2.5 miles) and then retrace your steps and take the “shortcut” at the fork to the Reds Meadow pack station (1.5 miles).
Your adventure begins at the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center where a shuttle will take you to the Devils Postpile Ranger Station. The Devils Postpile site is 0.4 miles from the drop-off site with a clearly marked trail.
Devils Postpile is a stunning rock formation that was developed from the eruption of basalt lava less than 100,000 years ago. Postpile will capture your attention at first glance and features breathtaking columns that jet from the bottom of the cliffside to the top.
The columns can be viewed from different angles, providing some incredible photo opportunities. Here you can choose to take the short loop trail to the top of Postpile which has a minor elevation gain but is very manageable for some additional unique angles.
Once you are satisfied, continue on the main trail to Rainbow Falls. You’ll hit a 3-way junction where you can choose to go to Reds Meadow or Rainbow Falls – continue to Rainbow Falls and remember this spot, as this is where you can fork over to Red Meadows on the way back.
You’ll hit a few more junctions along the way with clear signs pointing to Rainbow Falls which you will reach after about 2.5 miles of hiking. You will cross over Boundary Creek, and then you will hear the roar of the falls before you see them as you approach.
Rainbow Falls is a sheer spectacle with its majestic roaring clear waters. It sends the San Joaquin River tumbling 101-feet down. The bottom of the falls offers breathtaking views, a welcoming mist, and some scenic areas to relax for the afternoon.
Rainbow Falls gets its name from the glowing rainbow coloration that captures your eyes. When the sun is at its highest point for the day, the falls often glow with rainbows that you will never forget.
Reds Meadow Resort
Once you’ve seen the falls, climb back up the steps and retrace your path, except this time once you reach the Reds Meadow junction you’re going to take the fork over to Reds Meadow where you can find refreshments and a general store. This will take you about 1.5 miles one way from Rainbow Falls.
Here you can grab a well-deserved salad or burger at the Mule House Café (or any of the awesome restaurants in Mammoth) which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then you can simply wait for the shuttle to take you back to the Mammoth Adventure Center.
Some Tips for The Hike
- The shuttle bus is mandatory and driving is not allowed
- Bring at least 1 liter of water per person
- Bring mosquito repellant if you hike in the summer
- Bring a camera or smartphone for some amazing photos
- Remember to wear sunscreen as there are sections that aren’t shaded
- Wear good hiking shoes for the trip instead of sandals
- Dogs are allowed, but they must be on a leash
- Summer is the ideal time to visit up to the early fall
This hike is a must during any summer in Mammoth Lakes. If you want to challenge yourself a little more and you’re an experienced hiker, take to the surrounding Inyo National Forest and venture out a bit on the connecting John Muir/Pacific Crest Trails.
If you only have time for one hiking adventure while visiting Mammoth, make it the hike to Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls. You should not have a problem managing both on one trip. The Devils Postpile National Monument is open from mid-June to October, with dates that vary depending on the weather.
If you want a cozy place to come home to after a long day of hiking or more information about the local outdoor recreation opportunities in Mammoth, contact us at 800-421-1849. We can connect you with some of the most luxurious, conveniently located and amenity-loaded Mammoth Lakes vacation rentals available. Call us today.