The Pinnacles, a geological marvel, offers hiking, camping to thousands.
More than 23 million years ago, molten rock poured over the surface of the land, oozing through fissures as two plates comprising part of the earth’s surface ground against one another. Today remnants of that geological activity can be seen at Pinnacles National Monument, tucked in the Gabilan Mountains just east of the Salinas Valley, accessible by Highway 146. Travelers can get there from Soledad, Greenfield and King City.
Huge rock formations, caves, wildflowers, nature trails and animal life greet visitors to the monument, which was created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. Though the park has access from both its west and east sides, the two roads leading to it don’t meet within the monument, so from either direction, there’s one way in and one way out.
Several trails wind their way through the park and give hikers a close-up view of the formations which have made the Pinnacles an increasingly popular destination. The huge rocks, many of them tumbled upon one another, are a fascinating study in geology and offer a marked contrast to the smooth hills which surround them. Trails dip into caves and wind past sheer cliffs, often dotted with rock climbers. Pathways take visitors through the park’s chaparral and offer glimpses of the many kinds of plant life which thrive there: live oaks, buckeye and sycamore trees, California poppies and other wildflowers, owl’s clover, manzanita, greasewood chamise, buck brush and holly leaf cherry. There’s also poison oak, so be careful. Animals that make their home in the park include black tailed deer, gray foxes, bobcats, rabbits, rodents, reptiles and bats. Bird watchers may see the California woodpecker. brown towhee, California quail, turkey vulture and other specimens.
The Service has categorized the various trails into degrees of difficulty, ranging from easy to trenuous. Distances covered by the trails range form just over a mile to 7.6 miles. The monument is open all year. Both the west and east sides offer picnicking and rest-room facilities. The east side (accessible from King City via Bitterwater Road and Highway 25) is home to a more elaborate visitors center that exists on the west side. Generally speaking, Pinnacles National Monument is considered a day-use facility. The east-side visitors center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Day-use fee is $5 per vehicle (the pass is good for seven days).
For more information about the park, call (831) 389-4485, or write to Superintendent, Pinnacles National Monument, Paicines, CA 95043.