America’s newest national park was established in 2013. With it’s breathtaking spires, incredible rock formations, numerous waterfalls & extensive cave systems, this central California gem is definitely worth a visit.
East entrance portal to America’s newest National Park.
Hello Deer. I didn’t have a lot of time to explore, so I decided to hit one of the parks most interesting hikes. The Bear Gulch Cave Trail is a 3-mile loop hike that passes through a talus cave to reach a reservoir on the east side of the park. The east and west entrances of Pinnacles National Park are not connected by a through road, so make sure you map out your trip before you go because it’s a long trip to the other side if you make a mistake.
Don’t forget your flashlight, only natural light illuminates the interior spaces of the caves and sometimes there’s no natural light at all.
The contrasting colors throughout the park are incredible.
It was an overcast, rainy day when I explored the park which made photo taking more difficult but also kept everyone else out. I only saw three people in the campground area when I arrived and absolutely no one along my hike. Yay!
The park is located near the San Andreas Fault, which had a hand in creating the unique formations the park protects. The Pinnacles are part of the Neenach Volcano which erupted 23 million years ago near present-day Lancaster, CA. The movement of the Pacific Plate along the San Andreas Fault split a section of rock off from the main body of the volcano and moved it 195 miles to the northwest. It is believed that the pinnacles came from this particular volcano due to the unique breccias that are only found elsewhere in the Neenach Volcano formations. Differential erosion and weathering of the exposed rock created the Pinnacles that are seen today.
Large-scale earth movement also created the talus caves that can be found throughout the park. Deep, narrow gorges and shear fractures were transformed into caves by large chunks of rock falling from above and wedging into the cracks leaving an open area below.
One of the first passages along Bear Gultch Cave Trail.
Water comes from everywhere along the trail and since it was raining there was a lot more of it. In fact, the other extensive talus cave in the west end of the park was completely closed due to flooding from the recent rains. Always check the NPS website for current conditions, that way you won’t be disappointed.
The sound of water rushing in and making its way through the cave system is intense.
Make sure you wear some decent water resistant hiking shoes, cause you will get wet.
Water falls all around you throughout your journey.
Thirteen species of bats have been documented at Pinnacles, with a further three species considered likely. The park’s talus caves provide roosting and breeding habitat for the bats and are occasionally closed off to protect them. Check here for status of the caves.
What the talus caves look like from above.
It’s was reassuring to know that I was just hiking underneath these ginormous boulders.
The ascent up from the talus caves includes a view of a mossy waterfall and the reservoir dam wall.
Water falls into the talus cave.
Pinnacles National Monument was established in 1908 by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1933 a Civilian Conservation Corps camp was established for about 200 men who worked on additions to the trail network. CCC laborers improved the road in Bear Gulch, built tourist cabins, and constructed the dam at the Bear Gulch reservoir. The 26,606 acre park includes over 30 miles of hiking trails to explore. I only had time to hike three of them:( I’ll be back with more time to spare and a better camera.
Pinnacles National Park
East Side of Park (Pinnacles Visitor Center)