Velo Steve

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Overview

The towering spires and ramparts of Pinnacles National Park are surreal, as if they fell from an imaginary world onto rolling chaparral-covered hills. In reality, they're what's left of a volcano commuting north, but so slowly you’ll never see the action. The Miocene-era Neenach Volcano, which originated 195 miles to the southeast, straddles the San Andreas Fault. Along with the geologic forces, erosion helped create the eerie-looking monoliths and crags of Pinnacles National Park. The park has two entrances: The west entrance is 14 miles from the town of Soledad in Monterey County, but most visitors enter Pinnacles via the main entrance on ...

The towering spires and ramparts of Pinnacles National Park are surreal, as if they fell from an imaginary world onto rolling chaparral-covered hills. In reality, they're what's left of a volcano commuting north, but so slowly you’ll never see the action. The Miocene-era Neenach Volcano, which originated 195 miles to the southeast, straddles the San Andreas Fault. Along with the geologic forces, erosion helped create the eerie-looking monoliths and crags of Pinnacles National Park. The park has two entrances: The west entrance is 14 miles from the town of Soledad in Monterey County, but most visitors enter Pinnacles via the main entrance on the east side of the Gabilan Range (near Hollister) for convenient access to the park's only campground. The area became a part of the California Condor Recovery Program in 2003, and conservationists estimate that there are 26 condors in the park. For hiking, choose between the steep Juniper Canyon Loop (which runs through the spires of the High Peaks Trail, home to a handful of California condors) and the rolling Balconies Cave Trail (which leads to one of the park's two talus caves). Adventure seekers can easily cover both in a day. Rock climbers have many options for challenging routes a short walk from the campground.

Jill Robinson
About the Expert

Jill K. Robinson is a freelance journalist who specializes in adventure travel and culture and has written about Mexico and Central America for Frommer's and Lonely Planet.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Pinnacles National Park lies about 40 miles (64 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean and about 80 miles (130 km) south of the San Francisco Bay Area. The park is in the southern portion of the Gabilan Range, part of California's Coast Ranges.
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    High heat in summer makes hiking less pleasurable. Visit in spring, fall, or winter for more moderate temperatures.