Pinnacles National Park became the 59th national park in the U.S and the ninth in California on January 10th this year. Located about 80 miles south of San Jose,100 miles west of Fresno, and the nearest city being Soledad, CA, it’s about midway up California. This park’s highlight is its rock formations (“pinnacles”) formed by an eroding ancient lava field that resulted from its location near the San Andreas Fault. However, it features many other unique qualities and recreation opportunities, from the unique chapparal and woodland biome, to a notable wildflower season in Spring, and of course hiking, interpretive programs, and camping.
Camping and Attractions at Pinnacles National Park
With it being a new park, there appears to be fewer facilities and activities compared to some larger, more established parks. Among some of its features and highlights are a campground, hiking trails, a Visitor Center and Nature Center, and probably the most popular feature, rock cleaning.
The Pinnacles Campsites, found on the east side of the park, have spaces for tent and group camping as well as electric RV hookups. The campsite also has showers, a camp store, dump sites, and water, so overall a pretty typical list of amenities for camping.
There are also 30 miles of hiking trails of varying difficulty, some of which were built by the Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The park also recently built a new Visitors Center near the camp group, and converted the old Visitors Center into the Bear Gulch Nature Center. There are two talus caves – caves formed by rockfall – one of which is near the Bear Gulch Nature Center. (These caves are periodically shut down to protect the bats that live in them so check the NPS site for their status. )
But probably the best known part of Pinnacles is its rock climbing. With the many challenging rock formations, the rock formations have long drawn many climbers to this park. The NPS link at the end of this post has more information on climbing at the park.
Previously was Pinnacles National Monument
Unfortunately, those looking to have the place to themselves may be a bit disappointed as this park didn’t arrive out of nowhere. It was promoted from being a National Monument, a status it received way back in 1908 from the great conservationist president Theodore Roosevelt. Thus, it’s been a publicly accessible natural area from some time, receiving nearly a quarter million visitors in 2012. It’s 40 square miles though, so compare these 200-some thousand visitors to the nearly 4 million a year that primarily stay in the seven square mile Yosemite NP’s Yosemite Valley, there should be plenty of elbow room.
That said, it appears the primary reason for give this park its promotion is to boost attendance as well, as there doesn’t seem to be anything in the pipeline to expand facilities or activities, though it’s not like the park is lacking at the moment.
Have you been to Pinnacles, or plan to go soon? Any thoughts or tips for those looking to visit?