Devil’s Postpile Monument

Devil's postpile showing columns end on, curved, twisting, and upright, topped with trees, blue sky
This image shows all aspects of the columns including the rubble pile.

The ski town of Mammoth is southwest of Lee Vining, on Highway 203. A drive about 13 miles north brings you to the Devil’s Postpile National Monument Park. You crest a ridge and drive down the other side, into a parking lot, and a quarter-mile, level walk on a paved trail takes you to a fence, or stack, of hexagonal basaltic columns formed by nature.

Usually, you can’t drive to the columns. You catch a shuttle at the Mammoth Main Lodge. The Monument Park had closed a couple of weeks early, though, because of fires. When the wind direction changed, they re-opened for about a week, but did not activate the shuttle. We drove in and parked at the ranger’s station.

A tree trunk in right foreground, calm river in sunlight surrounded by evergreen trees.
The easy walk to the postpile was filled with beauty.

It’s tempting to use the title “Fire and Ice” when discussing these stone constructions and their placement. The National Park Service didn’t try to resist the temptation, and the informational boards call the formation of the columns a Story of Fire and Ice. Magma, or lava (once it reached the surface), formed the columns themselves, although they are not conventional lava tubes since they aren’t hollow. Thousands of years later, a glacier plowed through the area, plowed being a  geological-time term. The behemoth of compacted ice twisted and shook the columns, rearranging their orientation to something that looks like a fence in some areas, like a pile of fence posts (hence the name) in others, and in one spot, looking like the baleen of the blue whale.

Vertical columns of basalt, covered with grass, look like stair steps.
Here, the look like stair steps.
Basalt columns curve, with pine trees on top, blue sky.
And here, like a giant harp.
Upright pillars, glowing yellow aspen trees at right.
The fall aspen trees provide a glowing contrast.
The base of a broken pillar, hexagonal, about 12 inches across.
The large rubble field gave us lots of changes to see the shape. The signs say some of the columns are triangular (maybe the sheared when they broke off?) I never saw a triangular one.

The ridge protected us from the worst of the Sequoia Fire smoke, giving us a blue sky and air that was easy to breathe.

Rippling creek, rounded stones covered with moss.
Peace and quiet.

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2 Responses to Devil’s Postpile Monument

  1. Great photos. My dad claimed that, acre for acre, the Devil owned more land in California than every other entity, in English or Spanish. Mount Diablo by itself takes up a huge amount of space.

  2. Marion says:

    I wonder if Lucifer Morningstar from the Netflix show realizes how much property he owns in the US.

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