9 reasons to visit Pinnacles National Park in 2019
Pinnacles National Park is the newest gem of the U.S. National Park system, earning its place as America’s 59th National Park in 2013.
It’s also a convenient 2-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the “girl next door” of National Parks — breathtakingly beautiful but super friendly, too.
Haven’t made the trip yet? Here’s why Pinnacles should top your “must-see" list for 2019.
Catch In-spire-ing views from the High Peaks Trail
The High Peaks Trail winds through the signature jagged rock spires that lend Pinnacles its name, giving you a condor’s-eye view of the dramatic landscape. Volcanic caves, rocky stairways, a calm oasis…this trail has it all.
2. Enjoy 5 billion-star accommodations
On a clear, dry night —which is most nights in the Mediterranean climate of Pinnacles— you can see the Milky Way stretching across the sky from the comfort of your campsite. Add a campfire, new friends, and a cup of wine for a star-studded show better than anything you’d be watching at home on Netflix.
3. See the wildflower bonanza
Spring at Pinnacles floods the chaparral hills with colorful clumps of wildflowers. Visit between March and May for bright, photogenic blooms like California poppies, fiddleneck, fiesta flower, monkeyflower, and baby blue-eyes.
4. Climb the Stairway to Heaven
The Civilian Conservation Corps carved a series of steep granite steps through the caves in the 1930s, including one with a dramatic boulder dangling overhead. (But don’t worry — it’s been there for thousands of years.) Your reward for the climb? Epic, panoramic views of the Gabilan Range and Salinas Valley.
5. Find an oasis in the desert
Bear Gulch Reservoir, with its dazzling blues and rocky reflections, offers a perfect midway picnic spot on the High Peaks trail. After hiking through the rocky, mostly-dry climate of Pinnacles, this oasis can feel a little bit like magic.
6. Explore talus caves
The Pinnacles themselves are the dried-out guts of a 23 million year-old volcanic eruption, jolted 200 miles from their original location by action on the San Andreas fault. That seismic activity also created Pinnacles’ famous talus caves.
Unlike typical caves that are created slowly over time by erosion, talus caves are formed when action on fault lines splits open the rock, dropping boulders into cracks and leaving wide open areas beneath.
7. …and maybe GO A Little batTy
13 species of bat call Pinnacles home, including some rare species you aren’t likely to see anywhere else. Though notoriously elusive (and nocturnal), you might see one while hiking the Bear Gulch caves with your headlamp.
8. Catch a glimpse of the California condor
Pinnacles is a key re-introduction site for the critically endangered California condor, the largest flying bird in North America. With their red faces and stunning 9-foot wingspan (yes, 9 feet!), condor sightings can turn any walk in the park into the trip of a lifetime.
Call it a comeback. In 1982 only 22 California condors remained in the wild, pushed to near-extinction by hunting and habitat loss. But thanks to reintroduction efforts at Pinnacles and elsewhere, today there are more than 400 — 86 of which roam the Pinnacles region. It’s worth a visit just for the chance to see these amazing creatures up close, riding the thermals above the High Peaks or nesting in the spires.
9. Get away from it all - without going far
Its close proximity to the Bay Area makes Pinnacles the ideal weekend warrior getaway: far away enough to get you out of your routine, but not so far you need to take time off work. Trail Mavens camping trips to Pinnacles depart the Bay Area on Friday after work and return Sunday evening, with plenty of time to do a load of laundry or meal prep (or, just zone out on the couch) before Monday arrives. You’ll start the workweek rejuvenated and re-centered, ready to tackle whatever comes your way.