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Exploring Pinnacles National Park in Central California

Nestled among the rolling hills of Central California are the distinctive rock formations of Pinnacles National Park. The park’s namesake russet-hued spires tower above the valley below, providing a glimpse into this terrain’s volcanic history. This secluded spot is brimming with geologic wonders, majestic wildlife, and the allure of adventure. Get outdoors and explore the captivating landscapes of Pinnacles National Park!  

Photo by Kelly vanDellen

While the park is beautiful year-round, autumn is one of the best times to visit Pinnacles. The vibrant foliage amplifies the rocky scenery while the crisp air lends well to hiking and other outdoor activities. With over 30 miles of trails that range from relaxed strolls to challenging ascents, there is something for every hiker in the park. Head up on the High Peaks Trail for sweeping panoramic vistas, discover a tranquil oasis at the Bear Gulch Reservoir, and chalk up to climb a few pitches for a unique rock climbing experience. Visitors can even go spelunking in one of several cave systemssituated within the park. Take note: There are two entrances to the park, east and west, with no road connecting the two sides. Be prepared and plan your Pinnacles adventures in advance so you know which entrance to use. 

California Condor. Photo by Kelly vanDellen

Bird-watching enthusiasts should keep their eyes on the skies in Pinnacles: This is California condor territory. One of the rarest birds in the world, the California condor was once extinct in the wild. This resilient species is making a comeback, thanks to conservation efforts in the area. With their impressive 10-foot wingspan, witnessing a California condor in flight over the valleys of Pinnacles National Park is an awe-inspiring experience you don’t want to miss. To better your chances of spotting a wild condor, hike along the Condor Gulch Trail or head towards Chalone Peak as these rugged terrains are roosting spots for the endangered birds. The volcanic rocks that the condors call home formed here over 20 million years ago, and now provide fertile soil for the diverse flora blooming throughout the park. Springtime visitors to the park see the landscape transformed by a vibrant wildflower bloom of lupines, poppies, and other native blossoms as migrating birds and condors soar overhead. 

Bear Gulch Reservoir. Photo by Sundry Photography

Fully immerse yourself in the Pinnacles experience by pitching a tent and roasting a marshmallow or two at one of the park’s coveted year-round camping spaces at the park’s east entrance. The remote location of the park makes for a stargazer’s paradise. The stars shine more brilliantly at Pinnacles, away from the city lights. Those who prefer a more plush sleeping experience can rest their heads at Bar SZ Ranch in Paicines near Pinnacles’ east entrance, or at The Inn at the Pinnacles, situated just outside of the park’s west entrance in Soledad. With its stunning natural landscapes, geologic marvels, and abundant wildlife, you won’t want to miss the chance to explore Central California’s Pinnacles National Park.    

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