I visited Pinnacles over a year ago when it was just accepted into the national park system. Before that, it was called Pinnacles National Monument. It may be the smallest national park in California, but there are some interesting things to see in the park.
I can’t explain it better than NPS.gov so here’s what it has to say about how the park was formed:
The Pinnacles story begins 23 million years ago when an ancient volcanic field began forming the rocks that characterize the park today. A few million year of powerful explosions, lava flows, and landslides created the 30 mile wide volcanic field that forms that foundation of our pinnacles today. This field of fire was then split down the center by the San Andreas Fault and the west side traveled 195 miles north at a rate of 3-6 centimeters each year, all while being worn away by water, weathering, and chemical erosion!
Townsend’s Big-Eared Bats
During most months of the year, the caves are open, either full or partially, where you may spot the Townsend’s big-eared bats. I didn’t visit the cave because it was pretty wet (probably due to rain), but if you’re interested, the Bear Gulch Cave schedule is as followed:
- March to mid-May – Partial & full for at least 1 week
- Mid-May to Mid-July – Closed
- Mid-July to September – Partial
- October – Full for at least 1 week
- November to February – Partial
Please visit the NPS website for status of the caves.
California condors are a critically endangered species. As of 2013, there were approximately 400 California condors remaining both in captivity and the wild. Pinnacles National Park is part of the California Condor Recovery Program and manages 27 free-flying adult and juvenile condors.
There is no guarantee a condor can be spotted, but the two most likely places to spot the condors are the High Peaks (in the early morning or early evening) and the ridge just southeast of the campground (on the morning thermals along the ridge and coming in to roost on their favorite trees in the evenings).
Please visit the NPS website for more info.
There is not much to do around the park, but you can also visit the Mission Soledad to make it a full day trip.
Pinnacles National Park
There are two entrances to the park, the East Side (Paicines) and West Side (Soledad).
Visit the national park website for more info.
La Mision de Maria Santisima, Nuestra Senora de la Soledad
Mission Soledad is the 13th mission in California. It is open daily from 10am to 4pm.
Visit the Mission website for more info.
Photos taken by Vean Chen and Steve Chou