“an Ancient Volcanic Field”
Rising out of the chaparral-covered Gabilan Mountains, east of central California's Salinas Valley, are the spectacular remains of an ancient volcanic field. Massive monoliths, spires, sheer-walled canyons and talus passages define millions of years of erosion, faulting and tectonic plate movement. Pinnacles National Monument gets its name from rock spires and crags that are remnants of an ancient volcano. The volcano eroded over millions of years as it moved northward along the San Andreas Fault. Rock debris in the form of boulders has weathered and settled, leaving behind spires of volcanic rock and talus caves. People come to Pinnacles National Park to hike, rock climb, watch and study wildlife, view wildflowers, and experience nature. Pinnacles offers solitude, challenge, and escape from the urban interface of both the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. Unlike many national parks, Pinnacles National Park is most popular in the cooler months. During the spring, when the grasses are green and a variety of wildflowers can be seen along any trail, hiking is at its best. Fall and winter are also excellent times to visit.
It's an easy day trip from the San Francisco area, and it's less crowded than Yosemite! There's tons of cool caves to explore and lots of really nice hiking trails. Just be warned-- bring LOTS of water, and watch out for rattlesnakes.
About half way down California State Route 25 (AKA The Airline Highway), you’ll have access to the east entrance to Pinnacles National Park. It’s the perfect side to enter if you’re planning on camping at the park or hiking Bear Gulch Trail to the caves or reservoir. (Note: the east and west entrances to the park DO NOT connect. To access parts the west side of the park you must exit and drive around.)
Condors! This has to be the best place to see condors. Morning hike to watch them sun and fly off for the day of looking for food. Great place for birders.
Summers here are apparently crazy hot so best to avoid the park during the hottest months. Spring weekends are apparently also packed, but there's loads of great hiking and climbing and it's an easy day-trip from SF.
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Pinnacles National Park
- Sun - Sat: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
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Good for bird watching, climbing, and 3 more activities.
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