Devils Postpile National Monument

You don’t expect such rigid symmetry in nature. Seen from above or below, Devils Postpile looks like something you’d see in a science fiction movie, not the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

From above, this geologic marvel resembles a petrified honeycomb. The stone hexagons still bear the shine and scratches from the glacier that passed through here several million years ago. From below, the rigid hexagonal stone pillars rising 60 feet stand like an impenetrable barrier to some other-worldly lair.

Devils Postpile is one of only a few stands of columnar basalt remaining in the world. It was created when lava from an ancient volcano slowly cooled, and the minerals in the rock aligned into tightly packed, six-sided poles. Seeing this strange and beautiful formation up close makes you realize the power and precision of nature.

To balance the silent symmetry of the postpile, venture to nearby Rainbow Falls, a chaotic, thundering monster of roiling water that plummets 101 feet into the San Joaquin River. Watch closely. When the sun hits the mist, you’ll see the brilliant spectrums that give the waterfall its name.

More than a mile above sea level and tucked into the Sierras, Devils Postpile National Monument offers many diversions for lovers of nature and sport. In summer, wildflowers carpet the valleys along the river, and 97 different kinds of birds fill the trees. You can hike 8 miles of trails – take your dog (on a leash). In winter, the park is closed to vehicles, but the hearty can slip in on snowshoes or cross-country skis.

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