I'm sure many of you are thinking, what is this guy talking about? A new national park? Yes! It's true! There is a new national park in California! A little over a year ago Pinnacles was upgraded from a national monument to become the 59th National Park in the United States. Pinnacles is a hidden gem and is now the closest national park to the San Francisco Bay Area. It's right in my very own backyard and I can't even begin to explain how lucky us Californians are.
Recently I made two day trips to this park and I have fallen in love with it. This park was first protected by Teddy Roosevelt in 1908. I'm sure glad our adventure driven president decided to set this place aside for us! You're probably wondering what the major draws of this park are. I'll sum Pinnacles into a few word: rocks, caves, and condors. Ancient volcanos helped create this place and the rock formations are just amazing. This place is super popular among climbers. Everywhere I looked I saw climbers, ropes, and people scaling boulders. Thousands of years ago seismic activity created massive boulders which resulted in beautiful cave formations. These cave systems are my absolute favorite part of the park. These caves are home to some awesome pockets of light and have become one of my favorite places to shoot. The cave system is a must see and don't forget your flashlight! Lastly this place is worth visiting just to catch a glimpse of the beautiful California Condor! Our native condor was on the brink of extinction and is now thriving at this park.
Pinnacles offers some great hikes and there are trails for everyone. I myself have only explored a small part of this park. Each time I've gone I have gotten caught up shooting the caves, or taking in the natural beauty of the reservoir which sits up above them. Another thing I love about this park is the lack of crowds. Yosemite gets millions of tourist a year, while Pinnacles still gets under 200,000 guests a year. There are some differences when visiting a smaller and newer park. There aren't as many facilities and parking is definitely more limited. There is a shuttle system, but it is in limited run. Come here knowing that if it is busy you will have to walk some distance to your hiking start point. Even if the signs say that parking is full at the main locations, I think it is worth driving to them to at least get to know the layout of the park and I have also noticed parking becoming available from people finishing up there day. Also, I would recommend bringing your own food. This park doesn't offer a cafe and doesn't have any hotels like some of the larger national parks. It does have a small visitor center that has a very small store connected to it that offers the basics. One thing the park does offer are some nice campgrounds, but I have yet to take advantage of them. Another thing to keep in mind is the weather. I have a feeling that this park gets HOT in the summer, so bring plenty of water and dress in layers.
I definitely recommend a visit to this wonderful national park! I actually recommend you visit this park sooner rather than later. With its geographical location so close to San Francisco and Monterey this place will gain popularity quickly. Also driving through the old towns on the way to this park only helps add to the charm of a road trip. It's almost like discovering a forgotten part of California. A forgotten part of this state that begs to be discovered again. Being a Bay Area native I will take advantage of this place many times in the future. Heck, it's not everyday that you can hop in your car and be hiking in a national park in just a couple of hours. This place is easy to get to and is just a bit off the beaten path. Pack your day pack, grab your camera and hit the road. An adventure is waiting for you!