Although it was established as a national monument in 1908, it wasn’t until recently that Pinnacles became a national park, 2012. The park is located in central California, and is divided by rocks formation into the East and West Divisions. There are only foot trails that connect the East and West Divisions, no road. A notable attribute of Pinnacles National Park are the many caves that are homes to many species of bats, some of which are only found at Pinnacles.
There are two entrances to Pinnacle National Park, East and West. Both roads are small and it is best to enter the park during the day-time because the roads are not well lit. There are a few vista points that are drivable to, but the majority of them require some hiking. Pinnacle has two visitor centers, one on the East and the other on the West. Camping is only allowed at East Pinnacles.
Wild animals and bats – This park is one of Harvey’s favorite parks because of the wild animals that we saw everywhere. From the dozens of deer feeding no more than 25 feet from our campsite to countless bats that come out at night to feed on the bugs, Pinnacles is a home to a lot of animals, and Harvey had a blast looking at them.
Bear Gulch trail – This is a 3 miles round trip hike that took us through a cave and ended with a reservoir. This is a kid friendly trail and we saw an entire school bus of kids hiking this trail for a school field trip. It was Harvey’s first cave hike and he enjoyed the dark and low ceiling navigation. We definitely recommend this hike especially if you have not hiked through a cave before. Make sure you bring a flashlight.
Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies Cave – This is a 4 miles round trip hike and again took us through a cave. We skipped the uphill balconies portion of the hike, because we weren’t sure if Harvey could handle another 0.8 miles hike. The highlight of this hike was the ¼ mile hike through dark and tight spaces. The cave for this hike is definitely a little more tricky and harder to navigate because of the tight spaces. The trick is to follow the white arrows and some can be challenging to find in the dark. Again, please make sure you bring a bright flashlight.
We stayed at the RV campground at Pinnacles because we wanted to plug-in our trailer and keep the freezer/fridge cold. It was challenging to find an RV site on a first come first serve basis for more than 2 consecutive nights because 1/3 of the RV campsites were closed because of falling trees. As for tent sites, the park has quite a bit so it shouldn’t be a challenge visiting without making prior reservation.
Closest Cities to the Park:
The closest major city to Pinnacles is San Jose, California, which is 85 miles north of the park. You can fly into SAN international airport and drive to Pinnacles in 2 hours. Please be prepared to deal with terrible traffic during rush hours so please plan accordingly.
Recommended Length Stay: 3-5 days
Would we be back? Maybe when Harvey is older and can handle the dryer climate as wells longer hikes.
For more photos of the park, click here.