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About Pinnacles National Monument

General Park Information

Contact Info · Directions · Hours · Fees
 

Park Contact Information

 
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Pinnacles National Monument
5000 Highway 146
Paicines, CA 95043

(831)-389-4485

 


Directions

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Printable Map to Pinnacle National Monument

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Pinnacles National Monument is divided into two sides—east and west.

The West side is accessible from Highway 101 near the town of Soledad, then east along Highway 146 to the Chaparral area.

The East side entrance is reached via Highway 25, south of the city of Hollister, then west on Highway 146.

It is not possible to drive through the Monument from one side to the other.

 

Park Hours

   

Pinnacles National Monument is open year round.

Thanks to the willingness of the Park to work with the climbing community, the Park is now open for hiking 24 hours a day.
(No overnight camping is allowed inside the park.)

While you can come and go as you please on the East Side of the park, the West Side is still subject to the following entrance hours:
(an automatic gate allows you to exit the West Side at any time)

 
 
 
Start DateWest Side Entrance Hours
April 03: Daylight Savings: 7:30 am - 8:00 pm
October 30: Standard Time: 7:30 am - 6:00 pm
 
 
 
(highlighted hours are in effect)

For more detailed information see Operating Hours on the Pinnacles Governement site.

 

Entrance Fees

 

Five dollars per vehicle - valid for seven days

For details see the National Park Service Fees and Permits page.


Geology

 

Machete Ridge - West Side PinnaclesPinnacles National Monument is the remnant of an ancient volcano formed approximately 23 million years ago. The Pinnacles volcano was a result of the same plate subduction occurring today off the California coast.

As thick lava flowed from the volcano, combined with explosive bursts of rock, this "stratovolcano" created the infamous protruding handholds climbers know so well. After the volcano's eruption, lift from the San Andreas Fault combined with millions of years of erosion created the great valleys and pinnacles of Pinnacles National Monument. Straddling the San Andreas was actually split in two! The other half is 195 miles away near Lancaster.

Forces of water and wind also caused large boulders to slide down the steep canyon walls creating what are now the caves. These are not "true" caves, but rather narrow passages created under these boulder piles.

Modern-day Pinnacles is a geologist's playground peppered with silica-rich rhyolite, layered lava flow bands and perlite pockets of green volcanic glass.


Flora and Fauna

 

California Poppies(flagrantly plagiarized from the Pinnacles Climbing Guidebook)

The native life of Pinnacles is more complex than it appears. Both flora and fauna are diverse, interdependent and very well adapted to their environment. For more complete species information, please visit the wonderful exhibits in the Pinnacles Visitor Center.

There are basically four biotic communities found in The Monument: Chapparral, Foothill Woodland, Ripirian (springs and streambeds) and Xeric (rock and scree).

The Chaparral community is the dense, scrubby brush on the hillsides and covers 82% of the park. These plants are well adapted for water conservation and can survive long periods of heat and drought. Chamise (or greasewood) is the most common chaparral plant and actually relies on fire to propagate the species. Ceanothus (also known as buckbush or wild lilac) also germinates better in fire conditions. Manzanita has a distinctive smooth red bark. Its berries were used extensively by the Indians and early Spanish settlers. These berries provide a reliable winter food source for small birds and mammals. The gray pine (or digger pine) is the only pine native to the Pinnacles. Its abundant seeds are enjoyed by squirrels, big-eared kangaroo rats and brown towhees.

The chaparrals dense, brushy habitat is ideal for sparrows, scrub jays, towhees and the wrentit. Rodents, rattlesnakes, kingsnakes, hawks and bobcats are also an integral part of this ecosystem.

Falcon - click to hear me!

The Foothill Woodland community consists of the sparser, rolling, grassy hills with blue oak trees and gray pines. This community covers 13% of the park. After the spring rains, the foothills bloom with beautiful bright wildflowers. Hawks and kites soar above while the woodpecker's tap tap echoes through the stillness. The mysterious feral pigs can be found in the valley along with the gentle Black-tailed Deer, rabbits and ground squirrels. California quail, other birds and rodents eat the abundant acorns and grasses in this "bread basket" of the park. They are, in turn, eaten by predators: hawks, gray fox, bobcats and the occasional mountain lion.

There are two, potentially, harmful members of this community which warrant your caution: rattlesnakes and poison oak (also common in riparian regions). If you see a rattlesnake, walk away slowly. Rattlesnakes will only bite when threatened or surprised, most bites occur after stepping on a snake. Walk cautiously, especially when stepping over rocks or fallen trees. Much more prevalent and perilous to park visitors is poison oak. If you do not know how to identify poison oak's many forms ask a park ranger before beginning any hike.

Flowers in BloomThe Ripirian community includes springs and streambeds and comprises 3% of the park. Owls, raccoons and coyotes feed in the stream areas, though mostly at night. The huge, deciduous valley oaks, evergreen coast live oaks and white-barked California sycamore provide shade, shelter and food for the abundant bird life. Cottonwoods, willows, blackberries, ferns, cattails, stinging nettles and duckweed depend on the the constant water as do the salamanders, lizards and snakes.

The Xeric or Rock community occupies the smallest percentage of the park yet attracts the most attention. With little soil on the cliffs, the plants most common to this community are the lichens, mosses, spike mosses and Stonecrops. Over 90 species of lichens are slowly breaking down the rocks.

The animals that make up the xeric include the common turkey vultures, ravens, bats and lizards. Not so obvious, or numerous, are the raptors (birds of prey). Prairie falcons are fully protected and the peregrine falcons are endangered. The speedy precise hunters, along with the amazing golden eagle, nest in shallow caves and cliff ledges. The Pinnacles provide a special, protected, environment for these incredible animals. Public education, observation, research and conservation management all will help to support the survival of these magnificent birds.


Camping and Services

 

Camping:

Camping is available at Pinnacles, Inc. Campground on the east side. The campground has a small store, showers and a swimming pool.

Camping is no longer available on the west side of the park.

For details see the Pinnacles Campground Web site.

Food & Lodging:

There are several good restaraunts in Hollister close to the east side of the park. On the west side you can find lodging and restaraunts in Soledad.

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