Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is located in Northern California about 3-4 hours south of San Francisco, between Highways CA-101 and US-5. For Bay Area people, this is the closest National Park they can get to. Established as a National Monument in 1908 by Pres. Roosevelt, it was promoted to National Park status in Jan 2013 by Pres. Obama. Despite that, it still has few visitors, which makes it a very nice park to visit even on crowded summer weekends like the 4th of July weekend.

The park has a very big campground with a swimming pool and a lot of wildlife that will come steal your food if you are not careful. From your camp site, you can see raccoons (they live in the 2 small creek beds that run in the campground), rabbits, deers, tons of birds, ground squirrels… When you are hiking you might encountered coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats. Mountain Lions, although dangerous, will usually not attack you if you know what to do, so please do inquire about them at the ranger’s station. The ranger taught us a lot about bobcats, how they can actually catch deers. He told us they are very common because they learned to survived among the bigger predators (like the mountain lions). Although we did not see any this time, we’ve heard them at night from the camp site. They also have rattle snakes and these you want to be careful about. At the campground, every evening at about 1 hour before sunset, the turkey vultures will come back home and perch on their tree. That makes the blue sky filled up with vultures (see picture below).

The park is also well-known for its bat caves. The Bear Gulch caves were closed for the season due to bat activity (they usually open mid-July). The Balconies caves were open but we did not have the time to go see it.

To be able to get pictures of the Milky Way, we hiked at night (starting at 1am) the High Peaks trail. Around 3am, we reached the first peaks and started taking pictures of  the stars. Continuing on the High Peaks trail, we could hear coyotes in the distance. I’m not sure why my husband did not want me to call them out…. We reached the last peak a little before sunrise and got some pictures of the Pinnacles at sunrise.