California’s remarkable rocks, part 1 – Pinnacles National Park

This is the first in a series of three posts about California’s remarkable rocks that we explored in January as we headed south to Arizona.  After checking out this amazing parks we realized these rocks are as spectacular in their own way as the “mighty five” National Parks in southern Utah that we visited last year.

Below is the map of our stops at Pinnacles National Park, Red Rock Canyon State Park and Joshua Tree National Park

We visited Pinnacles National Park, the 9th N.P. in California (making it the state with the most national parks), and the 59th in the U.S.  It was just four years ago in 2013 that the park was elevated from a national monument to a national park.  It’s about 150 miles south of San Francisco and 55 miles east of Monterey.  There are two entrances, one from the east and one from the west, and the internal road does not pass through the park so folks must pick the entrance they want to use for their visit.  We camped on the west side of the park in Soledad and checked out the park from there.

Pinnacles National Park

The pinnacles were shrouded in mystery on the first day of our visit

Pinnacles National Park

The following day the rocky spires and pinnacles were revealed!

Pinnacle National Park

Pinnacles National Park

Towering rock spires

With only one day of sunny weather predicted, we followed the High Peaks Trail starting from the west side.  It crossed streams and climbed around and through the park’s namesake rock spires in several places, using rock stairs to allow the ascent along the sides of the pinnacles.

Pinnacles National Park

The CCC boys constructed steps and railings here

Pinnacles National Park

Chiseled steps another legacy of the CCC boys of the 1930’s

Pinnacles National Park

View to the southeast of the mountains and beyond

Pinnacle National Park

Looking down at the west parking lot where we started

Pinnacles National Park

Machete Ridge is the rock climber’s hot spot, although we didn’t see any adventurers that day

We saw the eroded leftovers of  multiple volcanoes that had erupted, flowed, and slid some 23 million years ago to form what is now Pinnacles National Park.

Pinnacle National Park

Trail to Juniper Canyon Trail that intersects with High Peaks Trail

The High Peaks area covered in rock spires and the equally impressive views at the top made the park a unique landscape.  Pinnacles National Park is a hidden gem, and despite being only a 2-hour drive from our former home in Tracy, we never made it there.  Then Eric and Laurel of Raven and Chickadee paved the way for us to discover and enjoy this wonderful place.

If you happen to be in the Monterey/Salinas area, be sure to drive up into the hills and see this great spot for yourself.

 

Next up:  California’s remarkable rocks part 2 – Red Canyon State Park