|Over 20 million years ago fiery volcanoes erupted and belched forth churning lava to form what today is Pinnacles National Park. A few million years of powerful explosions, lava flows, and landslides created a 30 mile wide volcanic field. This field was then slashed through its center by thepowerful San Andreas Fault. The west side traveled 195 miles north at a rate of roughly 3-6 centimeters each year, all while being worn away by water, weathering, and chemical erosion. The result of these tumultuous years of fire, ice, and chaos are the amazing rock formations, grasslands, chaparral, oak woodlands, canyon bottoms, talus caves and sky-touching rock spires now visited by a quarter million visitors every year.|
Pinnacles National Park is home to many species of plants and animals. Its most famous denizen is the endangered California Condor. Pinnacles is one of only four sites where captive-bred condors are hatched, nurtured and released to live in the wild. Because of careful monitoring, it is known many of these birds live out their lives flying between Pinnacles and the Big Sur coast.
California condor numbers are now increasing after a low of 22 known birds in the early 1980's. Since then exhaustive preservation efforts have brought that number up to over 400 birds, over 200 of which fly free in California, Arizona, and Utah. On any given day up to 60 birds may be flying in and around the park. But commonly the number is much smaller, leaving condor sitings a rare occasion. With a good eye (or binoculars!) and some luck visitors may be able to spot one soaring over the peaks.
Pinnacles National Park has two systems of talus caves. A talus cave is formed when massive boulders become dislodged and fall, becoming wedged in ravines. These ravines over time are widened by water and erosion. Massive rocks, some as big as a building, hang ovoerhead as hikers trudge through a cool, moist and dark environment, This makes the perfect home for Townsend big-eared bats and red-legged frogs. In addition there are 32 miles of well-maintained trails. During the popular spring months they are decorated with a variety of wildflowers including California poppies, lupine and mariposa lilies.
Pinnacles has the highest density of bees per area of the entire world. Over 400 species of bees are busy pollinating all the wildflowers. The Park is also home to bobcats, coyotes, black-tailed deer, any number of lizards and snakes, tarantulas, and sometimes even a mountain lion or two.
Pinnacles National Park is a popular destination at night as well. Its unusually dark skies make it the perfect destination for astronomers and star-gazers. Full moon night hikes are also popular.
The history of Pinnacles National Park begins with the Native Americans who inhabited what is now California for over 10,000 years,intermittently occupying the area as evinced by the presence of arrowheads and bedrock mortars discovered within the Park. Up until now only a small percentage of the Park has been archeologically surveyed. The settlement patterns and impact of native populations in Pinnacles has yet to be determined.
In 1891 Schuyler Hain arrived in the Pinnacles area from Michigan to homestead. Over the next two decades he became known as the "Father of Pinnacles" by leading tours. He took visitors up through Bear Valley and into the talus caves, spoke to groups and wrote articles in support of preservation of the area. He was an unofficial caretaker during this time. His efforts led to the establishment of Pinnacles as a 2500-acre national monument in 1908 by President Teddy Roosevelt.
During the Depression the Civilian Conservation Corps established a camp in the Old Pinnacles trailhead area. From 1933 to 1942, the CCC widened and paved the existing dirt road up to Bear Gulch. The CCC improved many of the trails already established by homesteaders. The CCC built a dam to create the Bear Gulch reservoir. In the talus caves they added concrete steps and guard rails.
Since 1908, Pinnacles National Monument increased in increments to its current size of about 26,000 acres. On January 10, 2013 President Barack Obama signed legislation shepherded through Congress by Congressman Sam Farr to redesignate the monument as a National Park.
Today Pinnacles National Park is supported by its friend organization, Pinnacles National Park Foundation. Visitors come to enjoy the beauty, serenity and history of this fabulous park.
Pinnnacles National Park Mailing Address:
5000 Highway 146
Paicines, CA 95043