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2014: Iva Bell Hot Springs

September 23, 2014

Devil’s Postpile to Iva Bell Hot Springs

(28 miles there and back)

September 19-21

Nick, Deepa, Jason

0 Iva Bells topo

Day 1: Drive to Trail head, Devil’s Postpile to Cold Creek (5 miles)

Day 2: Cold Creek to Iva Bell Hot Springs (10 miles)

Day 3: Iva Bell Hot Springs to Red Meadows (13 miles)

I was originally signed up to do this hike as part of a MeetUp group. The leader had to cancel it, and then also disbanded the MeetUp group. I decided I wanted to do the hike anyway, but did not have a way to contact the original members, so I just posted it on some other backpacking MeetUp groups. I got a permit for 6, so accepted 5 others to join me. A pair of those flaked (they were coming together) the morning of, and another’s car broke down on the way, so it ended up with 3 of us. In the future I will get deposits from people if I use MeetUp for a hike.

For a really good description of someone’s else’s experience doing this route, check out this link: http://www.jennandromy.com/2010/09/fish-creek-trail-to-iva-bell.html

Day 1: Drive to Trail head, Devil’s Postpile to Cold Creek (5 miles)

Day 1 Elevation profile

Day 1 Elevation profile  7,700′ – 6’900′

Jason and I carpooled, and we arranged to meet Deepa at the visitor center in Mammoth Lakes at 2:00 pm where I had to stop to pick up the permit. For Jason and I that was about a six hour drive, so we left Santa Cruz a little before 8:00 am. We got to the station, met Deepa, picked up the permit and got a little trail advice. The weather report was predicting 30% chance of thundershowers over the weekend, but the ranger said that usually meant they wold not happen.From there we drove the last half hour to the trail head and parked.

Nick, Jason, Deepa

Nick, Jason, Deepa

After walking to the actual trailhead, I realized that we I had meant to go to a different trailhead that would have saved us almost 2 miles. After some discussion we decided to do it this way anyway and we wold do the shorter route on the way back and someone could hitch the difference to pick up a car. Also, this way we cold actually see the Devil’s Postpile.

Devil's Postpile

Devil’s Postpile

We did not actually hit the trail until about 3:45 pm. We quickly passed by Devil’s Postpile, which while interesting was not worth the extra couple of miles in my opinion.

The beginning of the trail soon hits an area that was burned out in about 1990, but still only has mostly shrubs and bush and the remains of the burned trees, with only a few trees coming back.

Burned out area

Burned out area

We hiked for a couple of hours, getting in about 5 hours, as it was mostly downhill. We heard that soon after that we might not encounter much water, so we stopped at a semi established spot by a creek crossing. It afforded a nice open night sky for star viewing that night. It got down to about 40 that night.

Day 2: Cold Creek to Iva Bell Hot Springs (10 miles)

Day 2 Elevation profile

Day 2 Elevation profile       7,000′ –6,300′ – 7,300′

It was a nice morning, getting light at about 6:45 am. By the time we had breakfast and got all packed up it was 8:45. With a bit of up and down to start through some woodsy area, and sometimes following a creek –but no access to it through thick shrubs. There are some good vistas of the canyon on the way down.

Deepa

Deepa

After a couple of miles we start to hit switchbacks going down, and then we are on an open south facing slope zigzagging the switchbacks down. At the bottom a bridge crosses the river, To get access to the river one as to clamber down, so we head on a bit further to where there is easier access to the river, and have lunch and refill our water.

257 river

Fish Creek

The rest of the way–another 3 or 4 miles– we follow the river up. We finally arrive at he junction. We arive there at about 2:00 pm. We were told that if we headed up the trial to our left and followed the switchbacks, we could get to the upper pool in about 45 minutes. Or, crossing the bridge to the left fork, we can head up to the lower pools that are fairly close. Our understanding for what we have heard and read is that the highest pool is the hottest, middle pool(s) next hottest, and lower pools least hot. But the middle and upper have very limited camping.

We decide given our limited time to just go to the lower pool, and check it out. We cross a log bridge to the right trail, and then take a bit to figure the best way up–all ways lead through some marshy grasses it seems. As we go around a large rock, there is a pol to our right, with a young man in it. We get the scoop form him–according to him the middle and upper camping is already taken. He is with a large group that is camped by the other pool there.

Nick in the hot springs

Nick in the hot springs

After looking aground there is no camping right by this pool. there is a cleared spot a bit away, but Deepa does not like having to walk though all the muck grass to and from the pool. We find a space that our two tents just fit a bit closer, but still some much to walk through. Jason camps on the rock itself above the pool. We each take a dip in the springs, set up camp and hang out. As it gets close to 6:00 Deepa and I start to make dinner, and we notice the weather is changing. We just manage to get our dinner ready before it starts to rain hard. Each getting in our own tents–and Jason wrapped up in his bivvy (having elected not to take a tent).

See the hail by the tents?

See the hail by the tents?

The rain turns to hard hail–about 1 cm in diameter. but it only lasts abut 15 minutes, and we are back out. Soon I head back to the tub–and about 6 people from this other group are also their–the other half of their party filling up the tub by their campsite. They are  bunch of locals from Mammoth Lakes.–clearly up here to party a bit. They are jovial and friendly as we sit together–though soon it is raining and hailing again! After a couple of rounds of raining, hailing , thundering, lightning, and clearing, I headed for my tent during a clear spell. This pattern went on for most of the night.

Day 3: Iva Bell Hot Springs to Red Meadows (13 miles)

Profile from IBHS

7,800′ – 6,300′ – 7,100′ – 6,800′ – 7,700′

In the morning it was clear again, and heated up my breakfast and we began to pack–when it started to rain once again. We ended up having to pack up in the rain. the rain went on for about the next hour or so, but finally cleared up. It did stay partly cloudy most of the day–which was actually nice as it kept it cool for the hike back. We stopped for mid morning  at the bridge before heading up the steep initial climb. We stopped a few miles later after getting up and back along the creek. At some point there was  creek crossing that seemed more substantial than I had remembered it being on the way down–probably due to the rains. There is a camp clearing just beyond it where we stopped for lunch and got water at about 1:30 pm.

Trail carved into the rock

Trail carved into the rock

The rest of the hike was most uphill, and mostly gradual, though just before getting to the burned out area, there is a steep climb, though not that long. We had decided to head back to Red Meadows, and I volunteered to hitch the last mile or so to get the car. By the end, we were ready to be done hiking. At Red Meadows there is a small “resort” that has a little overpriced store where Jason and Deepa waited. We arrived there at about 4:20. It took me but 1o minutes get a ride.

Crossing log bridge at Cold Creek

Crossing log bridge at Cold Creek

To see the rest of my pictures from this hike you can click here to my Flickr album

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3 Comments
  1. Thanks for the story. Heading there 5/04/2015

  2. This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing the knowledge. I am hearing Iva Bell has really nice hot springs. How difficult was it for you to obtain permits?

    • Since we went late in the season, getting permits was not an issue at all. I ordered them over the internet. Not sure how it would be during the main part of the summer.

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