Of all the places to stop and stretch on a family road trip, few prove to be as breathtaking as Minaret Vista. Between the ski town of Mammoth Lakes and Devils Postpile National Monument you'll find this 9,265-foot Minaret Summit.
Offering panoramic views of the Ritter Range, a sub-range of the Sierra Nevada, Minaret Vista puts the natural history of the region in perspective. Reds Meadow Valley lies 1,500 feet below; this area was once the proposed site of a Trans-Sierran Highway and a dam on the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River.
Plans to dam the San Joaquin were thwarted in 1911 thanks to lobbying efforts by the Sierra Club. Fifty years later, the land use debate would once again heat up over preparations to bisect the John Muir and Minaret (now Ansel Adams) Wilderness areas with a highway. A group of passionate area outdoorsmen and Governor Ronald Reagan led the charge in favor of preservation that culminated with the Wilderness Act of 1984.
From Minaret Vista, prominent Ritter peaks can be identified with the help of metal spotting scopes. Volcanism, uplift, and glaciation formed the arête named for its resemblance to mosque spires. Mostly 11,000 and 12,000-foot peaks, the pinnacles are alluring to skilled mountaineers, and many bear the names of those first to ascend.
Minaret Vista is equipped with restrooms and picnic tables, and it is the last wayside before entering Devils Postpile National Monument. Minaret Road (SR203) is closed beyond Mammoth Mountain ski area in the winter, although snowmobiles are permitted. Nordic ski and snowshoe routes are available for those who prefer to self propel.