Pinnacles National Park

Located: California  -  Established: January 10, 2013

The Park: America’s newest major National Park, Pinnacles gets its name from the unusual rock formations that were once part of an ancient volcano that has over time eroded into a series of spires, cliffs and jagged ridges. Originally designated as a National Monument in 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt, Pinnacles became a full fledged National Park in 2013. 

Tagged Condor (#47) soaring above Pinnacles

Tagged Condor (#47) soaring above Pinnacles

Condor country. Pinnacles has been a part of the California Condor Recovery program since 2003. Currently, the park is carefully monitoring 25 of these free flying birds that were once on the verge of extinction.

These rare birds with a wingspan of up to 10 feet make their homes in the rocky cliffs, spires and pinnacles here at Pinnacles! To get a close look at these creatures, you’ll either need high-powered binoculars or you’ll need to take a hike up into the mountains. 

As carrion feeders go, the condor feeds on the carcasses of dead animals; hence they are nature’s genuine recycler! But be advised…from a distance, the ever-present Turkey Vulture looks identical to the Condor. 

Trailside terrain

Trailside terrain

Getting thereThere are two entrances to Pinnacles; however, there are no roads through the park connecting the eastern entrance to the western entrance! The east entrance to Pinnacles is located in northern California about 30 miles south of Hollister. The west entrance is accessed via Hwy 101 and SR 146 38 miles southeast of Salinas, CA. 

When to goWith a Mediterranean climate, Pinnacles has hot, dry summers and mild winters. The all of the park and the Pinnacles Visitor Center is open year-round. The western Visitor Center is open seasonally. 

 What to do Pinnacles has more than 30 miles of groomed hiking trails ranging from easy terrain through flat grasslands to uphill climbs that are so steep, you’ll need to utilize handholds and a fence to navigate the trail. 

Pinnacles at Pinnacles. Park visit  #42 .

Pinnacles at Pinnacles. Park visit #42.

Talus Caves. While trekking about this park, you may come across two talus caves - Bear Gulch and Balconies.  These “caves” were formed when steep and narrow canyons were filled with massive boulders that fell from cliffs above. The boulders now serve as the cave’s roof. 

Whereas Balconies Cave, located on the west side of the park is typically accessible year round, the lower portion of Bear Gulch Cave, located on the east side of Pinnacles, closes to protect a colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats.

Bear Gulch is typically closed from mid-May to mid-July while the bats are raising their young. 

Pinnacles offers climbers a variety of climbing routes from easy scrambles to multi-pitch climbs up Machete Ridge.  

 Where to stay:  There are no lodges within the park’s boundaries; however, camping is available in the Pinnacles Campground located in the eastern section of the park. Lodging can be found in Hollister 

TriviaAccording to Western scientific knowledge, Pinnacles’ 400 bee species represent the highest bee diversity per unit area of any place on earth. 

Banner: The pinnacles at Pinnacles.

Experience these Check List:

  • Stop by the park's Visitor Center located on the east side 
  • Explore the Talus Caves (Balconies and/or Bear Gulch)
  • Hike amongst the rocky spires of Pinnacles
  • Spot a Condor