While many of the well-known national parks have been around since the 1900s such as Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, and many others, there are still national parks that are being designated as such, even unto this day. Pinnacles National Park is a “newer” park. It gained its designation as a national park in 2013, passing the House and the U.S. Senate who approved it. President Obama signed it as well in 2013, and Pinnacles became a park. The park protects a mountainous area in California by the Salinas Valley. Here, the remains of an extinct volcano, its wilderness, species of bats, prairie falcons, California condors, and many other precious resources and wildlife. Visitors can witness the towering rock spires, canyons, and unique landscape created by multiple volcanoes millions of years ago.
Where to Stay in Pinnacles National Park
The Pinnacles campground can be reached only on the east side and entrance to the park. The two access roads do not connect, so guests wanting to camp and stay the night must use the east side. There are tent sites, group sites, and RV sites available in the campground. Every tent and group site have a picnics table and a fire ring for your convenience. The RV sites have electrical hookups and have community tables and barbecue pits to enjoy. Water is available, and there are showers and a dump station. Enjoy a swimming pool that is open from April to September. Bring Fido with you as pets are allowed in the campground and on the paved roads, but not the trails. Reserve your site in advance in this beautiful and unique area in California.
Explore the Caves
The park has two talus caves which are home to lots of bats. The Bear Gulch Cave is located on the east side of the park as you travel up the Moses Spring Trail. The Balconies Cave can be accessed by either side of the park on the Old Pinn trail. The park website has updates statuses of the caves as they may not always be open or fully open. The caves can fill quickly with water from storms, so keep checking the website to see if they are open to visitors or not. The closures are also sensitive to the bat roosting and health. Visitors are asked not to disturb them, and the caves are closed during specific times of the year to help protect the bat colonies that call the caves home. Make sure to wear good boots and bring your flashlight to explore these massive caves.
Mountain Climber’s Paradise
This park is a mountain climber’s paradise with all the rock and pinnacles to conquer. Climbers are encouraged to exercise caution when climbing as many of the bolts at Pinnacles are aged or may be installed incorrectly. You also can’t use power drills can for bolting. The park has a Climber’s Guide to help you pick and choose the best locations for your climb. The rock at the park is not granite like many places. Instead, it is composed of volcanic breccia which is weaker. Climbers are asked to test out a few areas before starting their climb or at least lead well below the usual level to get used to the rock. Climbers can head to Bear Gulch where the climbs called the Tourist Trap, and the Discovery Wall are. The Chaparral side has the climbs called Passion Play and Game Show. All the climbs are about a 15-minute walk or hike from the parking lots. Explore the new climbing routes that are available and other information on the park’s website, or ask in the East Pinnacles visitor center.
Great Bird Watching
Birders can rejoice over the 181 species that have been documented in the park. Pinnacles National Park is a great place to bird watch. The park happens to be on the Pacific Flyway which birds use to migrate. This park also happens to be a release site of the endangered California Condor which visitors have reported sightings of. This is the ultimate bird sighting in the park, and there is a chance of seeing one of these rare and endangered condors. The best places to bird watch are at the visitor center where there are water sources and trees that attract hawks, thrashers, magpies, oriels, kingbirds, and warblers just to name a few. Another good place to see birds are at Bear Gulch Nature Center and Moses Spring trail. The high peaks of the spires and rock towers that have been created are a favorite roosting and resting place of the California Condors and the Turkey vultures which are often confused with the condors. A park is a perfect place for year-round birding opportunities.
Trails Trails Trails
Pinnacles have over 30 miles of trails that show the best of the park and of the rock formations for which it was named. Hike through the caves, through grasslands and mountainous areas or up close to the spires and pinnacles. Park staff can recommend the perfect trails for you based on time, physical fitness and access. Due to the terrain, most of the trails offered are either moderately difficult or strenuous. The Pinnacles visitor center to the Bear Gulch day uses area a good trail that is about 2 miles one way and takes about 1 and a half hours to complete. Visitors will walk along creeks and climb about 300 feet in elevation.
Another trail leads from the visitor center to Balconies Cave which is about 9 miles round-trip. Bring a flashlight as visitors will cross over the cave on the way back. There are fantastic views of some of the largest rock formations in the park along this trail. Follow the path leading from Condor Gulch to High Peaks Loop that is about 5 miles round trip. Be prepared to climb over 1000 feet in elevation along this trail, but visitors will be treated to a walk through the heart of the pinnacles formations in the park. The Balconies Cliffs and Cave Loop Trail is an amazing experience that crosses up and over Balconies Cave and then leads back through the cave itself. Be prepared to get wet as some wading might be necessary if rain occurs and water fills parts of the cave. Don’t forget your flashlight on this trail as the cave is dark. There are tons more trials to explore in Pinnacles National Park. Crawl through caves or gaze up at the towering spires created millions of years ago at this relatively new and wondrous national park