A place you really feel like being deep in nature. To be honest. This was not the first National Park I though of when I wanted to visit a National Park in California. Nonetheless. COME HERE. The park is approximately 2 hours away from San Francisco and even the roads there are beautiful!
Pinnacle National Park is the youngest of the 9 National parks in California. Pinnacle developed from a volcano. Earth tremors and earthquakes along the San-Andreas-Fault met volcanic rocks from ground motions of the volcano over 300 kilometers south.
The entrance is $15 per day. To say it better. It is the fee for the parking. If you come via bike or feet it is free. The parking ticket gets attached to your windshield by tape. To get yours you have to come to the Visitor Center.
You can find a little grocery store and souvenirs in there.
On the opposite side of the Visitor Center is a little campground for accommodation.
The National park is open from sunrise to sunset. I did not see any gates therefore I would not care about the opining hours too much.
Once you attached the parking ticket on your windshield you can finally start exploring the park. There are many parking opportunities. If you are here on a sunny day it can get really crowded. On those days you have the opportunity to take a shuttle to get to the right trail.
The most famous hike is probably the Bear Gulch Trail. We parked in the Bear Gulch Day Use Area and hiked the 1.5mi (2,4km) long trail. A great hike that you have to get prepared for!
One of the essentials you’ll need is definitely a flashlight and waterproof shoes! The trail will lead you through many pitch-black rocks that sometimes lead through a creek. Almost the entire hiking trail is located in the shade and slowly gains elevation. We choose the trail that led through the caves.
Eventually the breathtaking views started. The first thing we saw was “The Monolith“. A huuuuge rock that you can walk under since it is hanging in between two cliffs. If you continue walking you will have to take some stone steps carved into two cliffs. The really good thing about this trail is that you cannot get lost. The trail is pretty obvious and well-marked. In the middle of the hike you can see a creek flowing along your left side of the trail. This creek will flow into a really dark cave. It is really, really dark and a flashlight will be necessary. There are some rocks in the water that build a bridge that may save you from getting wet….buuuut remind yourself of the flashlight ;). In any case just take waterproof shoes :P. By the end of the longest cave you will find this hanging stone. It looks kinda unstable but you can still trust it (I guess lol).
My definite highlight was the lake at the end of the trail though! The Bear Gulch Reservoir is very reflective pool. We made a break here, enjoy the view and had a little picnic. Behind this beautiful spot starts another trail called “Chalone Peak Trail”. The trail is 4.5-miles long and lets you experience the reservoir from a few different angles. We decided that we enjoyed this really pretty lake long enough and head back down “Bear Gulch” again from the same direction we came from. Alternative there is the “Rim Trail” north of Bear Gulch. The trail leads 0.4 miles to a T-junction with High Peaks Trail. High Peaks Trail will lead to the top of the Pinnacles while when you turn right at the T-junction you can hike another 0.3 miles down into Bear Gulch again.
All the trail are well-marked and it is really worth doing at least the Bear Gulch Hike with its unique trail.
All in all I can really recommend this National Park if you are into hiking. If you aren’t really into hiking this may not be the best National Park for you since there is not a lot to see by only driving in there with your car. If you decide to come visit – ENJOY!