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Pinnacles National Park

Here is some basic information and a few fun facts about Pinnacles National Park. I hope this helps you with your visit or, better yet, encourages you to want to visit yourself if you are in the area. This park is unique in its way and considered underrated by many people; let’s take a look at why that is!

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Smallest National Park

Pinnacles National Park is the smallest National Park in California and the seventh smallest overall. It was a National Monument for many years but was turned into a National Park in 2013.

Pinnacles National Park

Two Hours from the Bay Area

Pinnacles National Park is 26,000 acres long, which is why it’s also known as the smallest National Park in California. Pinnacles is still considered one of the newest National Parks & is only 2 hours from the Bay Area.

Pinnacles National Park

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Can’t Drive Through the Park

I have a theory that this NP isn’t visited as often as the others in the state because it’s one of the only National Parks that you can’t drive through, which means you have to hike through most of the park to see it & hiking is a deal-breaker for many. Take the hike; I swear you’ll love it!

Central Part of California

Pinnacles NP is located in Paicines, California, on the Central side of California. It is also one of the only National Parks to have a public swimming pool, so if you are camping there, you ought to check it out since it’s not very common to see a pool at a National Park. 

It’s Divided into two Sides

There are two sides to this park. The east & west. The east gate is the more popular side since it is the only campground located at Pinnacles, so it gets a bit more crowded than the west side entrance.

Pinnacles National Park

The Park has Caves

There are two – Bear Gulch Cave & Balconies Cave. I’ve been fortunate to see both; they are unique in their own way. There are times when the caves are closed to let the bat colony hibernate. You need a flashlight to enter the caves as it is pitch dark inside (as expected).

Pictured here is the Bear Gulch Cave.

Which Cave is Best?

It depends on who you ask. I prefer the Balconies Cave as it seems to be the least popular of the two, and once you come out from the cave, the views of the rocks are spectacular. You may want to reconsider if you fear small spaces, especially in the dark. The beginning of the Balconies Cave is more open, but towards the end, you are in the actual cave. The Bear Gulch Cave is definitely a lot more open out of the two and less confined.

Pictured here is the Balconies Cave.

Pinnacles National Park

Best Season to Visit

During the cooler seasons, it gets very hot in warm weather. Spring is still okay, but you definitely want to go early in the summer. The trails are typically exposed, so it does get hot. I’ve hiked Pinnacles in the fall and summertime; I suggest going when it’s cooler, as the heat is brutal.

Pinnacles National Park

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Hiking Trails at Pinnacles

You definitely have to hike a little extra to see a good chunk of Pinnacles. Many trails with the best views range from 6‑8 miles.

My top 2 trails are:

High Peaks and Balconies Cave Loop Trail is about 8 miles. This one takes you through a significant part of the park & the views are outstanding!

Condor Gulch to High Peaks Loop Trail, it’s about 6 miles. This one features a lake and has some of the coolest views ever!

Pinnacles National Park

California Condors

You might spot one of the fantastic California condors if you get lucky. Pinnacles is the only NP that manages a release location for captive-bred condors. Did to know that these birds almost went extinct years ago? 

Cool Rock Formations 

If you haven’t already noticed, Pinnacles has some of the most incredible rock formations & colors you’ll see. The rock tunnels also make it such an epic adventure.

See the Entire Park in Two Days

You can see most of the park in 2 days, especially if you are camping, which allows more time to enjoy the scenery. The best way to enjoy it is to park at the East entrance and go up Condor Gulch Trail, which connects to the High Peaks Trail. This way, you see the majority of Pinnacles NP.

Pinnacles at Night

Lastly, Pinnacles is excellent for photography, even at night. I have hiked Pinnacles in the evening, and the stars look amazing here. I am no professional photographer, but if you enjoy astrophotography, you would love to shoot here in the dark & if photography isn’t your thing, I highly recommend stargazing; I promise you’ll love it. Remember to pack extra warm clothing as it gets cold at night. 

Pinnacles National Park

Your Thoughts: Have you visited Pinnacles National Park?

This post was about Pinnacles National Park. If you have visited Pinnacles National Park, what was your favorite trail? Share a comment below and share which trail you hiked.

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