Pinnacles National Monument is a wildlife and hiking park. The Pinnacles that are referenced are part of the Neenach Volcano which erupted 23 million years ago near what is Lancaster, California today. I visited here with my parents and my children in the early spring of 1966. There are all kinds of hiking trails here plus rock climbing...more
The "Steep and Narrow" runs just .7 miles, but it clings to the east edge of the peaks offering great views of the park. Not that you'll do much sightseeing from here...the trail hugs the edge of the cliffs with steep steps and a sturdy iron railing for support. In some areas the trail is extremely narrow and other sections require hikers to duck...more
Pinnacles National Park has two entrances. There is no direct deriving connection between the two sides of the park, despite the fact they are both on Rt 146 and located only a few miles apart by trail. The east entrances is 30 miles from Hollister and King City, and it takes you to the Bear Gulch Visitor Center or the Old Pinnacles Trailhead. The...more
The Soledad Mission was the 13th of the 21 Spanish Missions in California and was established in 1791. Throughout its history, the mission was plagued by drought and disease, limiting its native population to under 700 at its peak in 1805. Flooding was a significant problem for this mission, and church buildings were destroyed in 1824, 1828 and...more
In Pinnacles National Monument, I saw a cottontail rabbit, a woodpecker, a few squirrels, numerous small birds, and a few rare California condors. The park claims 149 species of birds, 49 mammals, 23 reptiles, 6 amphibians, 68 butterflies, 40 dragonflies and damselflies, nearly 400 bees, and many thousands of other invertebrates. The California...more
The Balconies Trail is a very easy, one mile path that begins at the Chaparral parking area and heads northeast down a relatively flat canyon. After 0.6 miles the trail enters the talus Balconies Caves, and proceeds the last 0.4 miles through these dark, narrow crevices. The trail is very wide and easy to walk, with just a slight downhill away from...more
The Balconies Cliff Trail is a short relatively easy 0.8 mile route that provides and alternate to wandering through the Balconies Caves for those who are claustrophobic or without flashlights. The trail starts at either end of the cave, climbs up about 300 feet above the ravine, levels out then lowers hikers back to the Balconies Trail. The trail...more
The High Peaks are the pinnacle of Pinnacles National Monument, and should be the primary destination of any hiker who is in decent shape. These volcanic rocks tower above the center of the 18,000 acre park and are the destination of numerous trails. From the Chaparral parking area in the west, the Juniper Canyon Trail is 1.8 miles from the peaks...more
Similar to the Bear Gulch Caves, Balconies Caves are talus caves that are created when rock falls into a canyon and lodges above the canyon floor. Unlike Bear Gulch Caves, the Balconies Caves have significant stretches of pitch black, plus a far more natural floor with narrow crevices, and uneven footing. Fun! Also different about the Balconies...more
Juniper Canyon Trail takes you from the east parking area to the southern edge of the High Peaks at the High Peak Trail. The lower half of the trail is straight with a slight incline following, and occasionally crossing, a small trickling stream. The path is mostly soft dirt and grass in the lower woodlands full of a lot of oak. On my second trip...more
The first leg of my journey was up the Juniper Canyon Trail from the west parking lot, then I took the Tunnel Trail for its entire length of just .6 miles to the High Peaks Trail. This small stretch of path is rocky, steep and has numerous switchbacks. Its main feature is the 20-30 meter long tunnel carved through a huge rock. The vegetation along...more
We decided on the Bear Cave trail. The trailhead was a little confusing and not just for us. When we finished that trail and decided to try the Juniper Canyon trail we found people asking us if they were going the right way to the Bear Cave trail. So if you pull into the parking lot and you are facing the bathrooms, off to the right you will see...more
Hollister was founded in 1858 and was originally intended to be named San Justo. According to local lore, some of the local objected due to the fact that saints had a monopoly on city names in California, so they should name the town after someone less holy. Apparently William Welles Hollister was no saint....Today the town is a mid-sized farming...more
Soledad was the site of Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, one of the 21 Spanish missions in southern and central California. This mission was established in 1791 and was 13th of Spain's 21 California missions. El Camino Real--the King's Highway--is a series of roads from San Diego to San Francisco which connected Spain's 21 missions, 3 pueblos...more
The Bear Gulch Cave is home to a colony of Townsend bats as they hibernate in winter and raise bat pups in the summer. When they occupy the cave, we don't. The cave has gates to prevent people from interfering with the bats. Luckily there are two tails through the cave, and the lower cave is often open, even when the upper, bat-infested cave is...more
Okay, it's slim pickings in Soledad. The Best Western where we stayed had a restaurant called Windmills. The hotel staff directed us to Mariscos a mexican restaurant in a strip mall within walking distance from the hotel. The strip mall also had a grocery store, Starbucks, Subway and a Chinese restaurant. Okay back to Mariscos. As the name implies they serve a lot of seafood dishes in addition to more traditional dishes. I wanted to try one of the prawn dishes. There were several and they all looked good but for some reason I chose the combination platter. An enchilada, taco and relleno. It was all good except for the relleno which was soggy. If I had to do it over again I would definately try the seafood. Either way, the food was good and so was the service.
Favorite Dish: Wanted to try the prawn dishes. There was one a stuffed prawn, wrapped in bacon and covered in breadcrumbs that sounded delicious.
Wear sturdy shoes; carry water and a flashlight (for the caves). Remember the sun and heat...snakes and poison oak...
We visited in February when it wasn't so hot. But you may encounter temperatures above 100º F during the summer. Avoid dehydration by carrying and drinking plenty of water. There is no water available on any of the trails.
Wear a hat, and light-colored clothing, and apply sunscreen
Fire Danger Rating: Extreme
No fires allowed.
No smoking on trails.
No compressed logs (Duraflame, Presto) allowed.
No charcoal allowed.
Propane gas stoves are allowed.
Pets are not allowed on trails.
There is no road that connects the east and west entrances of the park.
Pinnacles is a favorite rock climbing location for Bay Area climbers, especially during winter months (November to April) when climbing in the Sierra Nevada is less accessible. On these rock spires are tons of short technical rock climbing routes (single to a few pitches) popular for sport climbing, on weak, brittle volcanic breccia.
Equipment: You'll need rock climbing gear, and maybe a climbing guide book for the area.
The predominant habitat type of the five environmental areas in the park is Chaparral, which is shrubs which can grow in the hot dry summer (photo 2). That's what I remember. But obviously there are other types of environments, as I have taken this picture of my dad and children with big ferns.
The other types of environment are
#2 Woodlands - trees such as the blue oak, California buckeye and grey pine with annual grasses
#3 Riparian - trees that grow in the bottom of the valleys and in streams such as sycamore, cottonwood and willow. There are also shade-loving perennials and a few annual species.
#4 Grasslands - grasses like brome
#5 Rock and Scree - little or no soil. Bitter root and two-leaved onion, for example, are among the most spectacular plants in the monument and are found in the high peaks.
Fondest memory: The park service lists Ferns, Wildflowers, Lichens, Trees and Shrubs as the types of plants that are here. Park Service Plant CheckList