Camping in the Reds Meadow Valley, California

Camping in Reds Meadow in California is truly a spectacular outdoors experience. If you are visiting the Golden State, the Reds Meadow Valley is a top destination for travel in California and is located in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, just west of Mammoth Lakes.

Heading over Minaret Vista into the Reds Meadow Valley, views of the Minarets, the Ritter Range and the San Joaquin River are spectacular. The valley is lined with granite boulders, pine trees, and wildflowers, and it is filled with history, geology, and epic trout water. 

Reds Meadow Campground is the largest and most popular, but there are six camping areas in the area with favorite spots situated near the river, and close to Devils Postpile National Monument. Each campground has a unique setting and is in close proximity to the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River. The valley is a popular location for outdoor recreation including, hiking, sightseeing, and fishing. Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls are among the best.

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Area History

Vintage Photo of Reds Meadow Valley

In the 1800s, prospectors traveled to the region along the French Trail, a route from Fresno to the Mammoth area. Red Sotcher settled in the area, farming vegetables and selling to the miners. While people came from far and away to mine for gold and silver, it was Sotcher who prospered. Reds Meadow and Sotcher Lake were eventually named in his honor.

The Devils Postpile National Monument was created in 1911 to protect Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls. Support for the ​monument included letters to President Taft from the Sierra Club and signed by John Muir.

Later, in 1972 a trans-sierra road development was proposed to connect Oakhurst to Mammoth, through the Reds Meadow area following the French Trail, but was stopped when California Governor, Ronald Regan, arrived with 100 politicians and made a historic horseback ride to Summit Meadow. Eventually, the area surrounding Reds Meadow and the Middle Fork San Joaquin was designated wilderness.

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Where to Camp in the Reds Meadow Valley

Camping in Reds Meadow Camping

Monica Prelle

The Reds Meadow campground is located at the end of the valley and is most popular for its free hot spring showers. The showers are available for all campers in the valley on a first come first serve basis. Red’s campground is closest to Sotcher Lake, Reds Meadow Resort and the Rainbow Falls trailhead. The popular sites are the first loop along the meadow, but campsites 43-45 in the back loop are the most private.

The campground at Pumice Flat is located riverfront, on the San Joaquin River, and in a nice section for fishing with meadows and pools in close proximity. It is the smallest of the area campgrounds, with only 16 campsites. Pumice Flat also has a group campground across the road that is popular with fishing clubs.

Upper Soda Springs campground is also riverfront and is a popular day camping destination for hikers and fisherman. A bridge crosses the San Joaquin River at the north end of the campground leading to the river trail for hiking and river access.

The sound of cascading waterfalls highlights the camping experience at Minaret Falls Campground. Nearby the campground, Minaret Creek flows over granite rocks and into the San Joaquin River, creating a spectacular waterfall. This campground has 26 campsites, but the sites are popular and fill up fast.

Located at Devils Postpile National Monument, the Devils Postpile Campground is adjacent to the ranger station situated along the San Joaquin River. The basalt column formations at Devils Postpile are a popular destination for sightseeing in the Mammoth Lakes area and a highly recommended visit. A bridge crosses the river just south of the ranger station and before the monument, making easy access for fishing and hiking trails.

Agnew Meadows campground is the first campground as you descend into the valley. The meadow and wildflowers are spectacular in the summer months. Reds Meadow operates a pack station from Agnew Meadows. A trailhead is nearby the campground with numerous trail options. Group campsites and horse camps are available at Agnew Meadows.

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Reservations and Trip Planning

Devils Postpile Fishing

All campsites are available on a first come, first serve basis, except the group sites at Agnew Meadows and Pumice Flat. Reservations for the group sites can be made online.

Check with the Mammoth Lakes Visitors Bureau for road information before heading to the Middle Fork San Joaquin Valley. Highway 203 from Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge into the Red’s Meadow Valley is only open in the summer months. The road closes each year on October 31 or the first major snowfall.

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