Pinnacles National Park was promoted from a National Monument to National Park in January 2013. This park is a natural wonder, formed by volcanic activity from millions of years ago. It’s full of canyons, caves (& bats), rock spires, unique vegetation, and infamous California condors. Pinnacles is not a large park, only having about 30 miles of hiking trails, but with all the canyons and boulders, it’s quite popular among rock climbers.
This was the 5th National Park we traveled to on our 10-day road trip through California, and it’s crazy how much the weather really varied between the different parks! We started at Great Basin, where there was still so much snow in the area, then arrived at Yosemite where we had chilly evenings, followed up with pretty mild weather at Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and now while at Pinnacles the weather was so incredibly hot. The temperature easily reached into the 100s, and the park was quite empty from other visitors. We had a few hikes picked out prior to arriving at the park, but only ended up exploring one of them due to the intense heat.
The hike we picked out was Bear Gulch Cave, which really ended up being the perfect hike. The hike took us past boulders, along a creek, through a cave, and then climbed upwards ending at Bear Gulch Reservoir. While I was initially bummed about only hiking one trail, this ended up being the best trail to explore– the variety of terrain was unmatched. Something cool we learned was that at certain points in the year, they close part of this trail to protect the hibernating Townsend bats from Bear Gulch Cave!
Other notable hikes to check out if you’re in the neighborhood (in a milder season):
- Old Pinnacles Trail: 5.5 miles, moderate trail recommended to us by a Park Ranger.
- High Peaks Trail: 6.7 miles, strenuous trail and is known as a “beginner’s version” of Yosemite’s Half Dome Hike.
- Balconies Cave: 2.5 miles, shorter hike but allows you some hands-on exploration of one of the park’s talus caves.
Following our time at Pinnacles we drove to Ventura, CA, which is where we would be staying for the next two nights. We had an airbnb in the heart of Ventura, and headed to the beach almost immediately after arriving. We had tacos at Beach House Taco right on the boardwalk, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the beach.