- America’s newest national park
- Dramatic volcanic rock formations & caves
- Home to the famed California Condor
When To Visit: Year-round
Climate: Dry and warm in summer and a bit wetter and cooler in winter.
Location: San Benito County 1.5 hours south of San Jose
America’s newest national park may not have the dramatic waterfalls of Yosemite or the tall trees of Sequoia, but it is a beautifully well-preserved section of California chaparral overflowing with rock formations and caves to explore.
Photo: The Pinnacles from Condor Gulch Trail
What To See & Do in Pinnacles
The park road does not go all the way through so you’ll have to choose whether to explore the park from the east or the west entrance (over an hour’s drive apart).
These are the two most beautiful hikes in Pinnacles.
- Condor Gulch Trail
- 3.2 miles, out & back, 1-2 hours, 1,200 foot elevation gain, moderately strenuous
- Ends at an overlook viewing the High Peaks, some of the prettiest rock formations in the park
- Can be extended into a 5.3 mile loop by returning on the High Peaks Trail or you can turn back at any point before the overlook for a shorter hike
- Balconies Cave Trail
- 9.4 miles, out & back, 4-6 hours, 2,050 foot elevation gain, moderately strenuous
- Takes you along a creek to a beautiful cave which you can enter and explore
- Moses Spring to Rim Trail
- 2.2 mile loop, 45 minutes-1.5 hours, 500 foot elevation gain, easy to moderately strenuous
- See caves, pretty rocks, and much of the Bear Gulch Reservoir
Where To Stay & Eat in Pinnacles
There are no food services in the park, but there are some food options 20 minutes outside the west entrance in the town of Soledad and a half-hour from the east entrance in Tres Pinos.
The park has one reservable campground which you can only access from the east entrance.
The closest lodging is in the town of Soledad.
Nearby Side Trips from Pinnacles
San Francisco: This Bay Area epicenter’s world-famous landmarks, dramatic hills, and stunning architecture create arguably the most aesthetically pleasing city in the country. 2.5 hours from Pinnacles. Read more.
Santa Cruz – This hippie beach city 1.5 hours to the northwest has a historic boardwalk and a poppin downtown. Take a walk through the unique UC Santa Cruz campus, which sits amidst a giant forest on top of a hill.
Monterey – An hour west of the park, this beautiful small coastal city has a famous aquarium and amazing seafood.