Pinnacles National Monument
Pinnacles Travel Blog› entry 10 of 18 › view all entries
Pinnacles is the remains of an ancient volcano that once, millions and millions of years ago, stretched 8,000 feet into the sky. Tectonic forces pushed the volcano back into the earth, but erosion has now revealed its remains -- the odd, incongruent rock formations, jutting spires, red rock monoliths and dark, winding caves.
This was a really fun 6 mile hike that was full of variety (for the first 3/4 of the trip), took 3.5 hours to complete and took us from down in the dark Bear Gulch Cave (only fully open for a few weeks a year) to atop the mountain on the High Peaks Trail.
We parked at the Bear Gulch visitor's center around 3PM and winded our way to the Bear Gulch cave. The cave is home to the adorable Townsend Big-Eared Bat, which unfortunately, you don't get to see because they're protected from too much human contact -- The cave is partially closed for most of the year to ensure they're not bothered.
The cave is really fun -- the trail requires flashlights and ducking pretty low at times, but it's well marked and nothing that isn't suitable for kids. You emerge on the other side into the sunlight, climb out to a real treat -- the classic Pinnacles Monoliths atop the cave and a picturesque resevoir sparkling amidst the rocky landscape.
From there, you can loop back or choose several more difficult trails. From here, we started up the High Peaks trail, which is moderately gradual up to just below Scout Peak. A series of switchbacks takes you to a gorgeous viewpoint overlooking the West side of the park.
From here, the trail enters the "steep and narrows" -- they aren't kidding about this part.
The end of the Steep and Narrows takes you to Hawkins Peak, and a seriously pretty overlook onto the Balconies across the canyon. You can also spot California Condors here. There were a whole bunch just chillin' on a mountainside when we were there.
The last part of the trail is a bit boring, a series of switchbacks down the Condor Gulch Trail that takes you back to the Bear Gulch Visitor Center and Parking Lot.
There's one campsite just outside of Pinnacles -- there's no camping inside the park. It's privately run currently, but is soon to be part of the park.
Be warned that the desert climate gets very cold at night despite being pretty warm in the daytime even in October. My new mummy sleeping bag is supposed to keep me warm down to 15 degrees, but I think my mummy lies.