Pinnacles National Park Guide

Pinnacles National Park will take you back to millions of years in history as it is renowned for its beautiful vistas, spectacular geological formations, and wildland communities.

And when we say “millions of years,” we really mean it.

According to, Pinnacles national park was formed some 23 million years ago after the eruption of volcanoes, making it a fantastic place to spot geological formations.

In this guide, we’ll share best hotels to stay near Pinnacles, best time to visit, plus some valuable tips to make your trip a memorable one. 



ParkPinnacles National Park 
Things to doRock Climbing, Cave Exploration and many more
Hotels near Pinnacles National Park Keefer’s Inn, Pinnacles Ranch and many more
Entry Fee$15
Camping LocationMultiple Locations

Where Is Pinnacles National Park?

Pinnacles National Park is located in the east of the Salinas Valley in Central California and can be reached if you take Highway 101. It lies eighty miles to the southeast of San Jose and five miles east of Soledad. There are two entrances to the park, one in the east and the other in the west, but because of its landscape, you cannot enter the park via a vehicle; you can only enter the park on foot.

About Pinnacles National Park 

Surprisingly, many people don’t know about Pinnacles National Park because it’s relatively new and got the park status in 2013.

But this small Park is an excellent destination for families, nature lovers, and a paradise for climbers and hikers. 

Pinnacles National Park is the most recent addition to the national parks in California.

This is home to a wide variety of wildlife and diverse landscapes with hiking trails winding through canyon bottoms, chaparral, and oak woodlands. 

And also has more than 30 miles of trails ranging from flat grasslands to steep rocky inclines and talus caves.

Rock climbing, cave exploration, and bird watching are the most popular activities within the Park.

The Park doesn’t receive massive visitors due to its remote location.

Still, for those looking for a load-back place to recreate and enjoy enchanting mountain views, explore cool caves and see rare bird species, California condor, Pinnacles National Park is certainly worth a visit. 1

Hot Springs National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

 Olympic National Park

History Of Pinnacles National Park

Around 23 million years ago, the volcanic field was located in the southeast of the Park, and Pinnacles are the remnants of the volcanic eruption that happened back then.

Over millions of years, wind, rain, and glacier erosion exposed the rock formations creating the Park’s characteristic terrain of canyons and monoliths. 

In 1908, Pinnacles National Monument was established by President Theodore Roosevelt to preserve the unique rock formations and the talus caves found in the Park.

During 1933 and 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps started to develop some of the trails and facilities in the Park.

In 2013, the monument was upgraded to National Park status and renamed the Pinnacles National Park.

The name was inspired by the exciting spire rock formations caused by volcanic activity. Today the park attracts over 150,000 visitors every year. 

Things To Do In Pinnacles National Park

This National Park is primarily famous for its caves, rocks, hikes, camping, and condors. Here are top things to do in the Park: 

Rock Climbing 

This Park is a paradise for rock climbers, especially if you want to experience some advanced rock climbing.

The West side of this Park is full of the tallest and challenging rock formations that will turn on your adventurous side.

If you’re a beginner, the east side of the Park is perfect for you as it has comparatively shorter climbs and sturdier rocks.

The rocks in the Park are formed by volcanic breccia. They are very fragile and crumbly so if you’re an inexperienced climber, get beginner lessons for outfitters in the area. 

Cave Exploration 

Caves found in the this Park are known a Talus Caves, formed when the narrow, steep canyons were filled with boulders leaving hollow spaces among the rocks.

There are many of them in the Park, but only two are open for the visitors: Bear Gulch Cave and Balconies Cave.

There are hiking trails that lead to and through the caves, and you’ll need a flashlight to get through the dark tunnels.

Both these caves are home to bat colonies, a protected species. Make sure to check the status of caves before visiting. 

Hike The High Peaks Trails

The third most prominent feature of this Park is its otherworldly high peaks created by volcanic activity.

These terrific rocky peaks will take your hiking to new heights, and you will experience the beauty of the Park on a whole different level.

Hike to the High peak trails is uphill, and one of the most popular routes you can take is via Bear Gulch, a 6.5-mile round trip from the trailhead.

The trail is a little strenuous but doable for all ability levels.

The views of the Park from the top are breathtaking, and you can also catch a glimpse of California Condor gliding through the sky, which is a sight to behold. 

Camping And Stargazing

This Park is a perfect place to see some great night skies if you camp here due to its remote location.

The night sky is just dark enough for stargazing, and campers have a good chance of spotting wildlife, including deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and a wide range of birds.

The campgrounds are hard to book during spring and autumn, and summers are sweltering to camp here.

It’s better to camp during cooler months to get the best experience. 2

Here’s What Reddit Users are Saying

Is driving to Pinnacles Natl Park for a day hike worth it (from the south bay area)
by u/ngomaam in norcalhiking

Best Time To Visit 

This Park can be visited any time of the year because of its fine weather.

However, Spring and Fall are the best times to visit Pinnacles National Park since the temperatures are milder than rest of the year, and you can see 100 types of beautiful wildflowers. 

Mid-February to early June is the most popular month to visit among travelers. 3


Make sure to download the Park’s map showing the roads, visitors centers, trails, and other points of interest to make the most of your trip.

Here is a PDF map of this park showing all the highlights and directions of the Park. You can also download the maps on Amazon. 

Hotels Near Pinnacles National Park

If you want to stay inside the Park, your only option is the campsites on the east side of the Park.

But there are a lot of of accommodation options in the nearby towns: 

  • Hampton Inn & Suites Salinas
  • Keefer’s Inn
  • Pinnacles Ranch
  • Valley Harvest Inn
  • Best Western Salinas Monterey Hotel

Camping Locations

The Park’s only campground is located on the east side and has 134 campsites for individual, group, and RV hookups.

Each campsite has a tent, cabins, fire pit with a grill, and picnic table. There’s a well-stocked general store on the site, as well as showers and flush toilets.

One thing which makes the campground unique is a swimming pool which is very unlikely to be found in any national park.

Tent and RV sites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance, and group sites can be reserved 12 months in advance.

To make reservations visit


This Park has a mild Mediterranean environment. The summers are dry and warm, and winters are cold.

During summer, the average temperature is 90 °F and can reach up to 100°F. The Park gets 119mm rain annually and remains dry for 298 days.

Don’t expect cool breezing winds since the Park is located sufficiently inland.

If you visit the Park in Summer, don’t forget to bring shade and water with you. For the latest forecast from the National Weather Service, click here

Entry Fee & Passes

As of November 2021, the entrance fee for this park is $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, and $15 per person.

You can also purchase the Annual entry pass for $55. If you wish to visit multiple national parks, we’d suggest buying America the Beautiful National Park or Lifetime Senior Pass for $80

Checklist Before Visiting Pinnacles National Park

Here’s are some essentials things you need to pack with you to stay safe and comfortable while exploring the Park:

  1. Hiking day Pack
  2. Extra base layer and socks
  3. Sunscreen & Sunglasses 
  4. Waterproof jacket
  5. Sturdy Hiking Boots 
  6. Binoculars
  7. Snacks
  8. Refillable water bottles
  9. Hydration bladder
  10. Headlamp/flashlight
  11. First-aid kit 
  12. Refillable water bottles
  13. Map & Compass


Which Side of Pinnacles National Park is Worth Visiting?

The Park’s west gate is the Pinnacle’s best entry because of easy access from Monterey, ample parking, and a wide variety of caves, spires, and trails. 

How long should I Spend in Pinnacles National Park?

We’d recommend at least spending two days and one night to cover all the main highlights of Pinnacles. But if you manage your time smartly, it’s possible to see the Park in one day.  4

When is the Swimming Pool Open at Pinnacles National Park?

The swimming pool is open for visitors from mid-April through September. If you’re camping, make sure to use the pool. 

NPC Overall Rating


The National Planning Cycles is committed to producing high-quality content that follows industry standards. We do this by using primary sources, such as white papers and government data alongside original reporting from reputable publishers that were appropriate for the accuracy of information while still being unbiased. We have an editorial policy that includes verifiable facts with due credit given where applicable.


Leave a Comment