The Columns of the Giants Trail may not have much to offer fitter furry friends seeking a challenge, or serious hikers, but this spectacular natural wonder is still a real "mutts-visit" for pups and people that find themselves in the Pinecrest area of California’s Stanislaus National Forest! You certainly won’t need to camp for this short stroll, but if you’re taking in the trail as part of a wider forest visit, Pigeon Flat Campground can be a great base for you and your buddy. Keep in mind that the road to the campground is closed during the winter. You’ll find free parking at the campsite, too! The route honestly isn’t as popular as it should be -- though you’ll probably see others on the trail, you’re unlikely to have to deal with crowds.
The columns are a product of a certain type of lava flow, but you don’t need to be a geology nerd to appreciate their beauty! The hexagonal rock formations are made out of basalt, or lava that cooled very slowly behind a natural dam. A glacier later rolled through the valley, eroding rock and exposing the tall columns in all their glory. Get close enough and you’ll be able to see some crystals! The effect is quite similar to that seen at the Devil’s Postpile Monument, or the world famous Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Though the scenery is pretty, well, rocky, you’ll also cross a small bridge over a gently burbling stream, and you can enjoy lunch at the picnic tables in a forest clearing near the trailhead. Plaques along the way will fill you and your buddy in on the area’s fascinating natural history.
At a quarter-mile of flat asphalt, The Columns of the Giants Trail is about as accessible as a forest trail can get. There have been some black bears spotted in the area, but sightings are rare, and they seem to be the shy and retiring type. In terms of facilities, there aren’t any restrooms at the trailhead, and you’ll need to bring your own water. Still, it’s such a short walk that you and your pooch won’t need to "ruff" it for too long!