Cheating The Devil: Service at Devil's Postpile National Monument, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13274A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Help preserve this unique geological monument with exquisite alpine scenery
  • Backpack in the pristine John Muir Wilderness
  • Explore the world-renowned Mammoth Lakes recreational area


  • All meals and snacks, including those on the backpack
  • National Forest Service expert assistance in invasive plant identification and removal  
  • All necessary tools and safety equipment


DatesJun 16–23, 2013
Difficulty3 (out of 5)
StaffDave Garcia

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Trip Overview

The Sharon Churchwell Fund is offering youth 18-25 years old a discount on this trip. Visit the Sharon Churchwell Fund page for more details.

The Trip

To the west is the Ansel Adams Wilderness and to the south is the John Muir Wilderness, where we will be backpacking.

Our base camp will be at Devils Postpile on the banks of the San Joaquin River. There are restrooms and piped water at the campground. We’ll see much of the monument while working and have time to explore Soda Springs, Sotcher Lake, and Minaret Falls. You can fish for trout just a few yards from our camp with a valid CA Fishing License.

The first four days we will be working from our base camp. The next four days we’ll do a beginner’s backpack into the John Muir Wilderness to soak at some hot springs. We’ll have one day of work and one day to explore before returning on the 15-mile round trip.  

The Project

We will be trained on the threat of invasive plant species, proper plant identification, techniques for removal, and other information regarding the spread and importance of controlling invasive plant species. We will mainly be eradicating Cheatgrass before it flowers, seeds, and spreads.

While many invasive plants are near trails, we will need to remove them from other areas. This will require accessing and working on uneven terrain and sometimes steep slopes. Although much of the monument is forested, we will also be working in an old burn area that covers a substantial portion of the monument.


Days 1-4: We’ll meet at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the Devils Postpile Visitor Center for instructions to the administrative campsites. We’ll set-up base camp, have dinner and an orientation to the area and the project. For the next four days we will work throughout the monument’s 800 acres, exploring and learning about the ecological and geological features of the area.

Days 5-8: On Thursday we will begin our backpack trip. We plan to hike seven miles to Island Crossing a favored fisherman’s camp in Fish Valley. We’ll spend one day exploring and hiking to Fish Creek Hot Springs to soak and another day searching and surveying invasive plants in the area. We will return to base camp on Sunday, completing our trip.




Getting There

Devils Postpile is located on the eastside of the Sierra Nevada Mountains next to the world-renowned Mammoth Lakes recreational area. Just off of Hwy 395, the area is accessible through Mammoth Lakes/Yosemite Airport (MMH). Flights are as cheap as $75 one-way from LAX and there is free transportation throughout the town of Mammoth Lakes.

The driving distance from Reno, NV is 175 miles (3 ½ hrs) or Los Angeles 325 miles (6 hrs). We strongly recommend carpooling and a roster will be provided in advance to facilitate carpooling. Directions to the monument can be obtained from Mapquest or Google.    

Accommodations and Food

Please come with the attitude that food is part of the adventure. The menu will be healthy, nutritious, high-energy, backcountry cuisine. Our meals will be vegetarian-friendly. We’ll have a group commissary with everyone taking turns in meal preparation. Before applying for the trip, folks with food allergies or strong preferences should contact the leader and cook for reasonable food accommodations. For the backpack portion of the trip, the food weight and quantity have to be calculated carefully with all waste carried out at trip’s end.   

Trip Difficulty

Beginning backpackers are welcome. We will make sure that loads are appropriate and will provide assistance with pack adjustments, etc. Each participant will have to carry his or her share of the food, cooking utensils, etc., in addition to his or her personal gear.    

Equipment and Clothing

Bring a broad-brimmed hat for sun protection and lots of sunscreen. Bring enough water bottles to carry at least two quarts of water while working. Rain and snow are possible, so a tent with a good rainfly is important.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from the Inyo National Forest.



Dave Garcia was a California State Park Ranger for 28 years. He has led Sierra Club kayak, mountain bike, and habitat restoration trips. Dave's trips are about the service commitment of working hard, playing hard, making new friends, and having fun!


Sarah O'Gara first joined the Sierra Club to meet people and discover new places to hike when she relocated from Los Angeles to Sacramento, California after college. She discovered National Outings Service Trips the summer when she worked in the Eastern Sierra to prepare for a Nepali trek in the fall. She has volunteered as a Service Trip leader for the past 10 years because it combines her love of working on conservation projects with like-minded people and Leave No Trace backcountry cooking. Sarah has a certificate in Natural Resources Management with an emphasis in botany and will be sure to include a wildflower identification book in her backpack.

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