This lake is part of a basin of lakes found in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range. It is accessed by turning off Highway 395 at Conway Summit about halfway between Bridgeport and Lee Vining. There are two lakes within the basin, the Little or Lower Virginia Lake and this one which is also referred to as the Big Virginia Lake. We photographed here several times last spring and then again this fall.
Devil’s Postpile sits along the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. It is a small national monument, as they go, with just 800 acres set aside to preserve a columnar basalt formation that was begun about 82,000 years ago. It all started with a volcanic event. This particular lava flow was ideally suited for columnar formation as it was thick, had a consistent mineral composition and cooled slowly and evenly. As the lava cooled, it contracted and split into symmetrical, vertical, hexagonal columns.
Somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 years ago, a glacier flowed down what is now called the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River. It rode over the fractured lava formation and carved away one side of the postpone, revealing columns 60 feet high.
The road into this National Monument is very narrow and windy, sometimes down to just one lane. During the heavy tourist season, people wanting to visit the Devil’s Postpile must take a shuttle from the ski area of Mammoth Lakes. In the fall, cars are allowed to drive in . . . but it can be a bit scary! This site is close to Rainbow Falls but we were not prepared to hike the relatively short distance to the falls, our feelings made better by the Ranger telling us there was not much water coming down!
Mammoth Lakes is actually the name of the town or village that sits at the bottom, or in the valley, below some awesome mountains. It is a popular year round recreational resort with excellent skiing in the winter and tons of trails to hike, lakes to fish and pull-outs for photographers to gaze in awe. Each of the lakes is quite different and we each had our favorites.