Ahh, Pinnacles. The nation’s newest national park, signed in 2013. Gee, thanks Obama! Honestly, very few people outside of climbers and hikers have ever even heard of it, and it’s the closest national park to the Bay Area.
The park itself has a fairly interesting geographic history, well worth a read. There’s a plethora of volcanic formations to scramble over, but mind the rattlesnakes. There’s also a concoction of eagles, raptors, condors, and bats to keep you busy. Oh, and caves. Don’t forget the caves!
CAMPING: There’s only one campground at Pinnacles, and damn it fills up quick. Check here for availability. If you plan ahead a few weeks, you can typically find a spot (holidays are tough). If you’re looking to plan a last minute trip and camp there, good luck. There’s no dispersed camping, so this campground is your only option.
MAPS: I have this book and it does the trick. It’s a bit difficult to figure out what is where if you’re new to the place, so I’m open to suggestions on better books.
PARKING: If you’re camping or going down for the day, get there early. I’m talking 10AM at the VERY latest. The parking lots fill up super quick, especially the main east one. If you are forced to park in the alternative lot to the main east entrance, it’s an extra bit of a hike just to get to the main east lot.
CLOSURES: Check before you go! Many a raptor, condor, and bat live in the park. Be aware of what routes and trails are closed to let the little creatures nest in peace.
Pinnacles is huge…not Yosemite or Joshua Tree huge, but much bigger than you’d think. There are some 800+ routes listed in the guide book. The park is divided into three large sections; east, west, and the high peaks. I’ve only ventured to a few walls so far, being the greenie that I am — Toprope Wall and Monolith.
Toprope Wall is great to give lessons on, you guessed it, top roping. It’s also fairly handy to teach newcomers how to set anchors since you can walk right up to the top anchors.
Monolith is a very cool rock. There is a small boulder on top of a very large boulder in the middle of a canyon. The climbs are mostly 5.10+ graded except a rare few. Unfortunately, the rare few are terrifying to lead so unless you have some pretty dense balls, you might want to skip it. Luckily when I went, someone in our group had said balls so we were able to get to the top. There is a lock box at the top that you can sign, too!