Pinnacles National Park is the final national park we’ve visited over a three-day weekend on our quest to visit three national parks in three days. The previous 2 days were filled with impressive historical sequoia trees, beautiful landscapes, and stunning sunsets! Read about it here: For every new national park we visit, we have a new found appreciation and desire to explore more parks, landmarks, and nature.
Pinnacles is an interesting park in that it is actually part of the San Andreas Fault Zone (running east of the park). Did you know? San Andreas Fault system is part of the Ring of Fire; a zone of earthquake and volcanic activity that partially encircles the Pacific Ocean. The park is a result of a combination of heat, frost, water, and wind wearing away rock. The caves are also a result of fault action and earthquake activity created by boulders falling into deep, narrow gorges and getting stuck between the rock walls.
The People’s Park:
During the 1700s, the Pinnacles’ Native Americans; the Chalon and Mutsun Indians, were hunter-gatherers and harvested on the local resources. Later, when emigrants arrived, Pinnacles became a popular place for activities, picnics, camping, and exploring.
Juniper Canyon Trail, Tunnel Trail, High Peaks Trail, Condor Gulch Trail, Old Pinnacles Trail, Balconies Cave Trail.
We hit the road toward Pinnacles around 9:00 a.m. after meeting up with friend and Fitlife360 guest blogger, Sam, at our hotel in Salinas. Sam was also traveling and exploring Santa Cruz and Monterey areas over the weekend and shared with us her interesting trip. She departed San Diego Thursday night drove directly through the areas where the large massive fires were near Los Angeles/Ventura. She was directed towards several detours around those flames until she finally made it to her destination in Santa Cruz.
We continued our way south on highway 101 from our hotel and onward into the Pinnacles National Park, which is about 45 minutes from our hotel in Salinas, California. We arrived at the park entrance and used the restrooms and enjoyed a chat with the park ranger. We had formulated our plan and map drawn out to explore Bear Gulch Cave, Balconies Cave, and see Condors. Things did not go the way we planned exactly, but we still had an amazing and very cool experience.
We began hiking from the Chaparral Parking Area and continued on the Juniper Canyon Trail. As we were approaching the Tunnel Trail, it was becoming a bit challenging with gradual inclines and switchbacks. It was only a short while into the trail, when we looked up and saw two large condors flying near one of the mountain peaks. This part of the trail was very interesting with the beautiful large boulders and rock formations, where some of them had splashes of colors on the boulders and rock formations.
Some of the trails connect with each other and can be difficult choosing which path to take. We had intentions of taking the trail that leads to Bear Gulch Cave Trail, (to explore Bear Gulch Cave) this is where we chose the wrong trail path and ended up at the Overlook on the Condor Gulch Trail. (We only saw Condors earlier on the hiking trail).
We continued on a decline trail of switchbacks and narrow paths towards Old Pinnacles Trailhead Parking lot area. We sat around for awhile and rested in this area for a short while. We decided to continue on this trail where it took us through a tree filled hillside, some areas had a canopy of trees, then we approached an area of an open dried up creek bed. (West Fork Chalone Creek) This is where we encountered a wild bobcat roaming around. My husband grabbed the Nikon and took off toward the bobcat. He captured our bobcat friend and he said it was like the cat was sitting there posing for him.
Shortly after our wild animal encounter with the bobcat, we proceeded to make our way towards Balconies Cave. The journey through the cave is very cool with the darkness, quiet and silent inside the cave, and the thrill of finding your way out to the other side of the cave. Check out the video of the cave adventure:
The journey through Pinnacles National Park was amazing! Despite the past couple days of experiencing smoke filled hazy skies, it was a beautiful day with blue skies and sunshine.
By the end of our day exploring, we had hiked about 11 miles, scrambling over rocks in Balconies Cave, and enjoyed a backdrop of massive boulders and stunning landscape views. Here are the many activities you do at Pinnacles.
*Enjoy Plants and Trees
*Birds-Condors and Bats
Here is more information to plan your visit:
Pinnacles National Park
5000 Hwy 146
Paicines, CA 95043
DIRECTIONS TO THE PARK