Eight things you need to know before visiting Pinnacles National Park (Oct 2022)

If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure but don’t want to drive too far, Pinnacles National Park is a good destination. Just a few hours southeast of San Francisco, this park offers plenty of hiking and climbing opportunities, as well as beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

1. What is Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is a national park located in central California, about 80 miles (130 km) southeast of San Jose and about 200 miles (320 km) north of Los Angeles. The park protects 24,000 acres (9,700 ha) of pinnacles, rock spires, and canyons formed by the erosion of an ancient volcano.

2. How did Pinnacles National Park form?

Pinnacles National Park was formed over 24 million years ago when the Neenach Volcano erupted and spewed lava for miles. The lava cooled and hardened into rock, which was then eroded by wind and water over time to create the pinnacles, spires, and canyons that we see today.

3. What is the best time of year to visit Pinnacles National Park?

The best time to visit Pinnacles National Park is from mid-spring to mid-fall, when the weather is milder and there is less chance of rain. However, the park is open year-round, and each season has its own unique beauty.

4. What are some of the things to do at Pinnacles National Park?

There are plenty of activities to keep you busy at Pinnacles National Park. Hiking and rock climbing are popular activities, as there are over 30 miles (48 km) of trails to explore. The park also offers birdwatching, stargazing, and ranger-led programs.

Although Pinnacles national park falls short in beauty when stacked up against Yosemite or Joshua Tree, it is still worth dedicating 4-5 hours to explore.

Of all the places in the park, Bear Gulch reservoir is our top pick–the views are best there and hiking routes vary enough to make it interesting.

bear gulch trail to the reservoir pinnacles national park 2022

There are two ways to get there, via Bear Gulch Cave trail or Moses spring trail. If you have a young child (less than 9-10 years old), then I recommend using the Moses spring trail. The Bear Gulch Cave trail is quite difficult for young kids to go through. At certain points inside the cave, you will need to get on your knees and crawl through.

bear gulch trail to the reservoir pinnacles national park 2022

Below are some pictures so that you can get a sense of what the Bear Gulch cave trail is like

bear gulch trail to the reservoir pinnacles national park 2022
bear gulch cave trail pinnacles national park 2022

5. What should I bring with me to Pinnacles National Park? 

Be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks, as there are no services in the park. To be more specific, there is no phone signal in many places inside the park. And you cannot buy food or drinks inside the park either.

A hat and sunscreen are also recommended, as there is little shade. If you plan on hiking or rock climbing, you’ll need proper footwear and equipment.

Toilets are available at many stops like Bear Gulch stop so you should be fine from that perspective. 

It is advised that you bring flashlights if you plan on hiking the Bear Gulch Cave trail, as the cave itself is quite dark.

6. Is there an entrance fee for Pinnacles National Park? 

Yes, there is an entrance fee for Pinnacles National Park. The fee is $30 per vehicle or $25 per motorcycle, and is good for seven days. If you plan to visit multiple national parks within 1 year, I recommend buying America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series. It’s only $80/year for 1 vehicle, so it’s value for money.

7. How do I get to Pinnacles National Park? 

Pinnacles National Park is located in central California, about 80 miles (130 km) southeast of San Jose and about 200 miles (320 km) north of Los Angeles. The closest towns are Soledad and King City.

The easiest way to get to Pinnacles National Park is by car. There is no public transportation to the park.

It is a very nice drive. 

drive to pinnacles national park 2022

8. Where can I stay near Pinnacles National Park? 

There are no lodging options inside Pinnacles National Park, but there are several campgrounds and RV parks in the area. For more information, please see Pinnacles National Park’s website.

Happy planning and enjoy your trip to Pinnacles National Park!

Chandler

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