Pinnacles National Park
One of the most recently named National Parks, Pinnacles National Park, is located in central-eastern California, south of Gilroy. The massive rock spires and monoliths for which the park was named are the result of an ancient volcanic field located along the San Andreas Fault zone. We traveled to the park with little knowledge of what we’d find and were very pleasantly surprised.
Critter-watch at Pinnacles Campground
There is an East Entrance and West Entrance to the park, and the two sides do not connect. We entered from the East Entrance and stayed at the Pinnacles Campground (site #114). (There is no campground on the West Entrance.) The campground was most notably alive with many critters including the California Condors (which this National Park is well known for), turkey vultures, turkeys, pocket gophers, squirrels, quail, rabbits, deer, and chipmunks.
Monoliths for which this park is named, Bear Gulch Cave Trail, Rock Climber along Bear Gulch Cave Trail
Explore the caves
There is a shuttle from the campground and visitor's center to the trails, but we drove to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area, and hiked the Moses Spring Trail to the Bear Gulch Cave Trail. That is the other attraction to this Park…the caves. The caves are only open to visitors once the bats have left (we visited in March), so be sure to check the National Park Service website to ensure the caves are accessible. Hiking the caves is very cool. Head lamps are recommended.
Hike from East to West
While I ventured to Hollister the second day of our visit with my daughter to find a clinic to treat her strep throat, my husband and young son hiked the 5 mile round-trip Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies Cave Trail and Balconies Cliffs Trail which ends up near the west side of the park. They had a blast. Not too strenuous of a hike, and just a little warm at times.
We had no expectations for what this park would entail, and we were so pleased. We highly recommend a visit.
Location: Central-eastern California, south of Gilroy (the garlic capital of California)
Camping: Only at the east entrance in Pinnacles Campground. There is no campground at the west entrance.
East to West: There is no road that traverses east to west across the park, the two sides of the park do not connect by road, only hiking trails.
Highlight: Hiking in the caves, but check the National Park Service website to ensure the bats have left and the caves are accessible before your trip.
Find out more at: https://www.nps.gov/pinn/index.htm