Back to index Machado Postpiles Hike

Trip Date:  07/07/2017

: 6.5 Miles

Vertical Gain: 600'

Group Size: 2

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Machado Postpiles Route
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Machado Postpiles Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 39.573
W 120 06.600
    End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates  
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No
Parking Directions:   Take Highway 88 to the eastern end of Silver Lake and turn south on Kit Carson Rd.  Follow this often narrow paved road for about a mile and a half past the Minkalo Boy Scout camp to a parking area at the Minkalo Trailhead area.  There is one point where there is a junction in the road about a mile in, and take the way to the left.  The other is a long, windy loop through the cabin areas.
Hazards of Note:   Route-finding skills and significant navigation experience is highly recommended.  Other than the beginning of the hike this is completely off-trail to the postpiles and back.

Crowd Factor:   Negligible.  Once off the trail in the first half mile, you will not run into any other hikers.
General Notes:
From the trailhead parking, the Minkalo trail starts at a signed trailhead just to the southeast of the parking location.  Head along this trail for about 4/10ths of a mile, passing a small water body on your left.  There is a sign at the point where you want to leave the trail which says "Trail," and points you to the west to continue along the Minkalo trail toward Granite Lake.  Follow an obvious use trail off the main path to the left, and then you will be on your own for the rest of the trek to the postpiles.  It is best to stay as close to the creek when you reach it, preferably finding a way to safely ford the water to get to the west side.  If you follow the GPS route which is available to download from this page, the route back we used (furthest to the left or to the east) is MUCH better than the way we headed out.  There is even a nice campsite about 3/4 mile from the postpiles along the creek which would be perfect for an overnight visit.  The postpiles can be found just around the back of the mountain which you will be heading toward for the few miles it takes to reach the area.  

About the Machado Postpiles:  The postpiles were discovered by Jesse Machado, a worker at Camp Silver Lake in the early 1920s, but he mostly kept their existence a secret to limit the possibility of their location becoming a touristy destination such as at Devil's Postpiles in the Central Sierras.  The postpiles were discovered again by Roger and Katherine Blain in the early 1990s.  When they met up with Jesse Machado just before his death they resolved to have the postpiles officially named after him.     The postpiles were formed 13 million years ago, far older than the Devil's Postpiles formation which are only about 100K years old.  They formed deep within the earth as molten rock (diabase) squeezed through volcanic fissures, forming pillars with four, five, or six sides.   These were eventually exposed by the upheaval of the Sierras as they were formed and then erosion.  (Source: Sierra Club fromMichael Fitzgerald)

Heading out from the parking area.  "Crash" the dog appreciated the boots over the multitude of granite on this trip.
Parking area

First picture is the signpost for the trailhead.  The junction to be looking for off-trail is less than a half mile along the road, and there is a signed marker for Granite Lake a mile ahead of this sign (second picture.)  If you reach that one, double-back halfway to look for the start of the off-trail section.
Trailhead Too far

One of the first sights along the early trail are some of the Minkalo Cliffs off to your right side.  A quick side exploration as you get south of them will provide some nice views of Silver Lake to the north and Thunder Mountain to the east.
Minkalo Cliffs 

Here are the views of the lake and Thunder Mountain from atop the Minkalo Cliff area early along the trail.
Silver Lake Thunder Mountain
It was nice to have an easy water crossing via bridge early on, because all of the others on the off-trail section were worthy of great care.
The easy crossing 

Greg and "Crash" making their way up some of the boulders after we left the main trail to head cross-country toward the postpiles.  
Heading up 

On the way out we crossed the water here, but on the way back we found a logjam about 1/10th of a mile south that didn't even require us to take our boots off.
Off-trail water crossing

Less than half a mile from our destination we had amazing views to the north of Squaw Ridge and just the northern end on the left of Covered Wagon Peak.
Squaw Ridge 

The final approach to the postpiles required some pretty steep elevation gain along some flowing water which cascaded down from above the postpiles themselves.
Last bit of up

The dead tree on top is a very distinctive marker for the start of the actual postpiles themselves.  In the second picture the figure on the right is NOT a dead tree.
 The postpiles from our lunch spot Another view

It's a little bit brushy on the way up from this side, but the best access to the top of the postpiles is from the northwest corner, near where there was significant water flowing from snowmelt on this particular day.
Heading up to the postpiles

The setting of the postpiles with Squaw Ridge behind it is fantastic.  Hard to believe these were not really made public until the early 1990s.  
Squaw Ridge

The postpiles were enhanced this trip by the amount of water coming down a waterfall on the north end of the formation.
Postpiles Cascade

Looking south from the top of the postpiles.  The Squaw Ridge line actually helped preserve these by keeping glaciers from eroding away this spot.
Top of the postpiles

There is an almost step-like section on the eastern end of the feature that allows a quick way back down.  As long as you are careful...
East way down

Greg and "Crash" working up the energy to make the rugged trek back.  We were pleasantly surprised, however, to find the way back closer to the creek much better and easier to navigate than the way out.
Greg and Crash

One more look back toward Thunder Mountain and the way we needed to head out from the Postpiles location.
Thunder Mountain

GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike