Reds Meadow

Every summer when our kids were small, we camped or rented a cabin at Reds Meadow. It was an extended family activity with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and other families came too. Wildflowers blooming in the meadows, rushing waterfalls with rainbows, streams for fishing, campfires under the stars, ice cream bars at the resort store after a long hike, it was heaven.

Tip: Summer 2024, June 7 to Sept. 15, shuttle bus to Reds Meadow is only available Friday morning to Sunday evening. More info.

Rainbow Falls - Going to Rainbow Falls is a must do. When you get the falls, it's impressive - the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River plunges 101 ft. down over the falls, making rainbows as it goes. Best of all, at the bottom of the falls, the water is shallow, and kids can wade and skip rocks for hours. (Swim trunks are a plus when the kids get wet). It's a wide, easy trail, about 2.5 miles round trip from Reds Meadow, bring your lunch.
Sotcher Lake Nature Trail - We always enjoyed walking around Sotcher Lake in the late afternoon, perfect if you have toddlers. There's a nature trail around the lake (1.2 miles), through the pine, fir and aspen trees. Keep your eyes peeled for beaver dams on the south and east side of the lake (we saw numerous beaver dams, but never the beavers).
Devils Postpile - It's just a short walk to the Devils Postpile, a geologic wonder. After a volcanic eruption, lava cooled into a wall of six sided columns, then the glaciers came and smoothed off the tops. You'll want to check out both the bottom of the postpile (where there's plenty of broken off pieces like a messy playroom), as well as the tops of the columns, a smooth pavement of hexagons.
Hikes -
Soda Springs - From Reds Meadow Resort, take the trail east through the meadow, until you come to the Pacific Crest Trail, then follow it north. Just north of the bridge, there's a naturally fizzy spring, bubbling by the side of the river.
Minaret Falls - If you want to keep on going from Soda Springs, continue on to Minaret Falls. This is a series of cascades rushing down off the mountainside. It's fun just to play by the water, hopping on rocks and logs.
Red Cones - For a completely different hike, head south to Crater Meadow and the Red Cones. Take the trail to the top of the Red Cone, it's a huge rusty red cinder pile, with great views in all directions. From Reds Meadow it's 6.5 miles round trip, with some up and down, but even a small child can do it (our 3 year old made it and back).
Agnew Meadows - Everyone in the family will enjoy wandering along Agnew Meadows up River Trail as far as you like (the meadows have lovely wildflowers in June and July). For teens, a fun day hike is Agnew Meadows to Shadow Lake, then loop back on the John Muir Trail to Johnston Lake and Minaret Falls. (This is a moderately ambitious hike, with numerous stream crossings without bridges.)
Horseback rides - Go for 2 hour, half day, or full day horseback rides through the forests. Rides are accompanied by a guide, kids must be 6 and up.
Go fishing - Bring your fishing rods and fish for trout. One of our favorite places to fish is Agnew Meadows, take the shuttle, walk up the River Trail to the Shadow Lake turnoff and fish the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin and the side streams. Everyone over age 16 will need a fishing license.
Go camping - We've had a super time camping in the Reds Meadow Valley, and there are six different campgrounds (plus two group camps). Our favorite is Reds Meadow, as it has warm showers (naturally fed by hot springs) and is convenient to the general store and ice cream. To camp, no reservations are necessary (except the group camps), it's on a first come, first serve basis.
Reds Meadow Valley Shuttle - We love the free shuttle bus that runs up and down the valley. Hike with the kids to a spot in the valley, then take the bus back - we've used each of the ten stops on the shuttle bus route.
If you're staying in the valley (camping or renting a cabin as Reds Meadow Resort), driving in a car is allowed, however, the shuttle is mandatory for day visits to Reds Meadow Valley. For day visits, pick up the free shuttle in front of Mammoth Mountain Inn.
Tip: Reds Meadow Valley is only open in the summer.
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