Pinnacles National Park

Audio Available:

OVERVIEW: About this audio-described brochure

Welcome to the audio-described version of the official brochure for Pinnacles National Park. This version uses text and audio descriptions of maps and photos to interpret the two-sided brochure. It is divided into two sections. Section one covers the front side of the brochure, which includes information about the geology, wildlife, and history of Pinnacles. Section two covers the back of the brochure and includes the park map as well as information about  things to do in the park.

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OVERVIEW: Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park, located in California, is managed the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior. Pinnacles is the newest national park in the system but protects a landscape that is millions of years old. Come to experience the peace and quiet of the Hain Wilderness, where the only sounds are the calling of birds and the rustling of the wind in the trees. Feel the change in temperature as you step from the warm sunlit path into the cool recesses of one of our talus caves. For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit, audio-descriptions of the park exhibits are available at the West Visitor Contact Station. To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure. 

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OVERVIEW: Front side of brochure

 The top half of the front of the brochure features seven scenic photos of landscapes, wildflowers, and geologic features of the park. Below these photos is a brief introduction to the park, its scenery, and its history. The bottom half has three articles: one about the biodiversity and unique animal species that live in the park, one about geology and fault lines, and one about the early history of the park. Descriptions and text are presented under each section.

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IMAGE: Cover Photo

CREDIT: 

Larry Carver


DESCRIPTION:   

The rocky spires of the Pinnacles tower above a dense layer of fog. A couple of sparse grey pines cling to the reddish-brown rocks, which are crossed by fractures and crevices and sporadically dotted with pale green lichen. Beyond the Pinnacles on the left stands the highest point in the park, North Chalone Peak, also rising up from the fog, while an even more distant line of hills on the right recedes into the cloud layer and disappears.



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TEXT: The Forces of Beauty

The difference is immediately apparent. Rock spires, ramparts, and crags that bear no resemblance to the nearby foothills dominate the landscape here. Massive monoliths, sheer-walled canyons, and boulder-covered caves define millions of years of erosion, faulting, and tectonic plate movement. 

Rising out of the chaparral-covered Gabilan Mountains, east of central California’s Salinas Valley, are the spectacular remains of part of an ancient volcanic field. One third of this field lies 195 miles to the southeast. Does this seem impossible? It is part of the story of the San Andreas Fault Zone, which runs just east of the park, and of the forces that have shaped this landscape for millions of years. It is the story of heat, frost, water, and wind wearing away rock. Fault action and earthquakes also account for Pinnacles’ talus caves, formed when boulders fell into deep, narrow gorges and lodged between the rock walls. These boulders form ceilings and areas of darkness, enticing visitors and many species of bats. Pinnacles’ topography is not all spires and crags. Much of the park consists of rolling hills that range in elevation from 824 feet along Chalone Creek to 3,304 feet atop North Chalone Peak. 

Pinnacles was proclaimed a national monument in 1908. A national park since 2013, it includes over 26,000 acres—much of which is designated wilderness. The park protects natural and cultural features, recreational opportunities, and open space in an increasingly urban setting. 

Pinnacles is a place for rejuvenation. People come to appreciate the unspoiled wilderness, hike the trails, climb rock walls, explore quiet caves, stargaze in clear night skies, and picnic or camp in the shade of ancient oaks. Please help us continue the work of previous generations and preserve Pinnacles National Park for future visitors.

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IMAGE: High Peaks in Autumn

CREDIT: 

Paul G. Johnson


IMAGE DESCRIPTION: 

Rusty red buckwheat bushes and golden grasses provide a sense of fall color in the Pinnacles landscape. The craggy rocks of the High Peaks, cast into sharp relief and shadow by the late afternoon light, rise up beyond the shrubs and grasses.


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IMAGE: Poppies near an oak woodland

CREDIT:

David Meunch


DESCRIPTION:

This image shows a field of bright orange flowers with large, upturned petals and tall green grass. One small purple flower appears in the foreground. The meadow extends back into a hillside of distant oak trees.



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IMAGE: Balconies

CREDIT: 

Larry Ulrich


IMAGE DESCRIPTION: 

This landscape photo shows the dramatic contrast between rocky Balconies Cliffs and the green grasses, shrubs, and trees of the surrounding hillsides. The cliffs form five levels of rock, each one rising a little higher and a little further beyond the one before.



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IMAGE: Talus boulders

CREDIT: 

National Park Service / Yongqiang Li


DESCRIPTION:

A jumble of large, rounded boulders fills the photo. The boulders are wedged together in such a way that only a few small pockets of sunlight are visible between them.


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IMAGE: California buckwheat set against Machete Ridge in winter

CREDIT:

Paul G. Johnson


DESCRIPTION:

The thin rocky blade of Machete Ridge, lit by the sun, fills the background of the image, while dried flower stalks of California buckwheat appear in shadow in the foreground. The ridge has a fairly smooth surface and rises jaggedly to form a sharp triangle at the top. The buckwheat flowers are small round clusters that have dried to a rusty red.


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IMAGE: Indian warrior and manzanita

CREDIT: 

Larry Ulrich


DESCRIPTION: 

Several Indian warrior plants are shown in bloom with bright red clusters of tube-shaped flowers and green fern-like leaves. Behind the flowers, the trunk of a manzanita shrub is visible, covered in pinkish bark and pale green lichen.


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TEXT: Critical Habitat for California Critters

Varied topography and weather, as well as the National Park System, help protect Pinnacles’ many habitats for plant and animal species. Chaparral (a plant community characterized by a variety of evergreen drought-resistant shrubs) and other vegetation provide shelter and food for birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects.  With 400 species of bees, the park protects the largest diversity of bees in a single place in North America.

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IMAGE: Bat

CREDIT: 

J. Scott Altenbach


DESCRIPTION:

A Townsend’s big-eared bat is shown in mid-flight against a black background. It has large oblong ears that are much bigger than its face. Its body is covered by light brown fur. Its wings are outstretched, and the bones of its “fingers” are visible along the dark wing membrane. Its tail membrane extends a short ways beyond its legs.


ASSOCIATED TEXT:

Several bat species find refuge in Pinnacles’ caves, cliffs, and trees. Balconies Cave attracts solitary males that roost in tiny cracks, away from human disturbance. Bear Gulch Cave hosts a maternal colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats (above), unusual because they stay in the park year-round. They breed and raise pups in spring and summer and hibernate in winter.

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IMAGE: California red-legged frog

CREDIT: 

Dan Suzio


DESCRIPTION: 

The red-legged frog is set against a blue background. Its skin is wet and slightly bumpy. Its back legs are folded behind it, ending in webbed feet. It is light brown with darker brown stripes along its legs. There is another stripe running from its nose down the side of its body toward its feet. It has large, protruding eyes.

ASSOCIATED TEXT:

The California red-legged frog (below) is the largest native frog in the western United States.Once an endangered species, it is re-establishing here. You may see this nocturnal frog around Bear Gulch Reservoir.



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IMAGE: California Condor

CREDIT: 

Steven Metildi


DESCRIPTION: 

This image shows the underside of a California condor soaring with wings outstretched against the sky. The long feathers at the end of its wings are spaced far apart like fingers spread wide. Its head is pink and bald, lacking the feather covering that most birds have. There are patches of white under the wings along the whole length of the bird’s enormous wingspan, but the rest of the bird is black. The text in the top right corner of the image says, “Critical Habitat for California Critters.”


ASSOCIATED TEXT:

Stewardship in Action 

Pinnacles National Park is a nesting area for the California condor and is one of a few release sites in the United States and Mexico. Loss of habitat, shootings, and poisoning from lead bullets—in gut piles or lodged in animal carcasses that the bird feeds on—led to its listing as an endangered species in 1967. An aggressive captive breeding program in the 1980s and ‘90s increased its chances for survival. One of the largest birds in North America, the condor weighs about 20 pounds and has a wingspan of 9½ feet. It soars on thermal updrafts at speeds of 55 miles per hour and altitudes of 15,000 feet. You may see condors flying over the high peaks at Pinnacles.

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IMAGE: Poppies

CREDIT: 

WILLIAM R. HEWLETT, © CALIF. ACADEMY OF SCIENCES


DESCRIPTION: 

This is a close-up photo of bright orange California poppies. Each of the dozen or so poppies has four delicately thin petals overlapping into a cup shape.


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TEXT: Faults, Volcanoes, and Erosion

The Earth’s crust consists of plates that fit together like pieces of a puzzle. These plates are always moving, some diving under others (subduction), others grinding past each other along fault zones. 

Our Pinnacles story began millions of years ago when the central part of the Farallon plate subducted under the southwestern part of the North American plate, creating California’s Coast Range and spawning volcanic activity. After the central Farallon plate’s subduction, the Pacific plate collided with and wrenched off a chunk of the North American plate, creating the San Andreas Fault Zone. Molten rock poured through fissures that opened as plates ground against each other. 

The Pinnacles volcanic field—believed to be 15 miles long and 8,000 feet high—was born 23 million years ago. The volcanoes were not where the Pinnacles are now but 195 miles to the southeast (see Neenach Formation on map below). How did these fantastic rocks get here? As the Pacific plate crept north, it split the volcanic field and carried two-thirds of the Pinnacles’ volcanics with it, leaving behind the Neenach Formation. On the Pinnacles’ slow journey, the mass sank beneath the surface. In time, the power of wind, rain, and ice exposed the old volcanic field, eroded the rubble, and the Pinnacles formation was born.

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IMAGE: San Andreas Fault

CREDIT: 

National Park Service


DESCRIPTION: 

This graphic shows a relief map of the western United States. The San Andreas Fault is shown dividing California. An arrow on the right side of the fault indicates that the North American Plate is moving west, while an arrow on the left side of the fault indicates that the Pacific Plate is moving north. Pinnacles National Park is immediately left of the fault, which means it is traveling north with the Pacific plate. A small inset graphic shows a globe with the Pacific Ocean and surrounding continents visible. The Ring of Fire, a string of volcanoes and earthquake sites that surround the Pacific Ocean, is marked on the map with yellow lines.

ASSOCIATED TEXT:

Volcanoes

Fault zones are likely places for volcanoes to occur. Here the Earth’s crust is broken, allowing magma to ooze up from below the surface or gases and ash to suddenly erupt as pressure is released. Many land volcanoes are found near plate boundaries. But most volcanism—about three-quarters of all lava eruptions on Earth—takes place beneath the ocean.

Faults

The San Andreas Fault Zone slices through 600 miles of California. Along it the Pacific and North American plates crunch past each other—one headed north, the other west. The offshore Mendocino fracture zone (above) is the northernmost extent of the San Andreas fault sys­­­­tem. The fault is part of the Ring of Fire (right), a zone of earthquake and volcanic activity partly encircling the Pacific Ocean.

Erosion

Erosion from weather, water, and wind is responsible for the spires and towers you see at Pinnacles today. Water—the most powerful force—erodes by seeping into cracks, freezing, expanding, and prying off flakes and chips of the brittle rock. Where the rock is weak, erosion works more quickly; stronger rock resists these forces. Over millions of years, these changes scoured nearly a mile of rock from the volcanoes, resulting in the distinctive rocks seen throughout the park.




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TEXT: Grassroots Movement: The People's Park

People have lived nearby for hundreds of years, but we still know little about them. Chalon and Mutsun Indians were hunter-gatherers who seasonally harvested the area’s resources. In the 1700s Spanish missionaries introduced a new religion and lifestyle but unwittingly brought diseases that almost decimated Pinnacles’ Native Americans.

Emigrants arrived next. Pinnacles soon became a destination for picnics, festivities, camping, and exploration. 

Homesteader Schuyler Hain, who led tours of the caves for years, began a grassroots preservation campaign. Stanford University president David Starr Jordan, US Forest Service chief Gifford Pinchot, and local families joined in. Their efforts paid off in 1908 when President Theo­dore Roose­velt proclaimed these geological formations a national monument. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built trails, tunnels, and the Bear Gulch Dam and day use area. Today’s visitors join a long tradition of treasuring and preserving this beautiful national park.

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IMAGE: Woman in cave

CREDIT: 

National Park Service


DESCRIPTION: 

A black and white photo shows a smiling woman in a skirt and blouse crouching beneath the giant boulders of a talus cave.


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IMAGE: Man and geological formation

CREDIT: 

National Park Service


DESCRIPTION: 

This is a historic black and white image of the Pinnacles landscape. A large rock spire rises in the background, towering above the surrounding trees and shrubs. In the foreground of the picture, a bearded man in black pants and a white shirt holds a walking stick and looks up at the rocks. He is dwarfed by the scale of the rocks around him.


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OVERVIEW: Back side of brochure

The back side of the map has three maps, one of central California, one of the entire park, and one of a detailed section of the park's interior. In addition to the maps, there is a section with photos of eight different wildflowers that can be found in the park, a list of all of the park trails with descriptions, and some tips to have a safe Pinnacles visit.

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TEXT AND IMAGES: Fantastic Flowers

Pinnacles’ Mediterranean climate—hot, dry summers, cool winters, and moderate rainfall—influences the park’s plants and trees. Chaparral, with its dense, woody evergreen shrubs, dominates the landscape.Woodlands offer blue oak and gray pine. Riparian areas flaunt ferns and mosses. Meadows sprout native and exotic grasses. Cliffs support multicolored lichens. And every spring a miracle seems to happen. Wildflowers—over 100 species—burst into bloom, dazzling the eye with color.

CAPTION: 

Larkspur

California Buckeye

Elegant clarkia

California Buckwheat

Mariposa lily

Bush poppy

Gray mule-ears

Sticky monkeyflower


CREDIT: 

National Park Service


DESCRIPTION: 

These six small images show a variety of the colorful wildflowers that can be found at Pinnacles in the spring. The purple larkspur has several blossoms with elongated petals at the top of the stem. The California buckeye has a cluster of white flowers with stringy filaments topped with pollen protruding from them. The flowers at the end of the cluster have not yet opened. The elegant clarkia is bright pink with four spade-shaped petals coming out of the center of the flower. The California buckwheat has tiny, tightly-clustered flowers that have each have five pink and white petals. A single mariposa lily has three delicate petals that are mostly white with deep pink spots in the middle. The two bush poppies are yellow, each with four round petals. Gray mule-ears are also yellow with many petals and fuzzy gold pollen in the center and large, gray-green leaves. The sticky monkeyflower is pale orange and oddly-shaped with five fused petals of different sizes.





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TEXT: Excellent Exploration

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TEXT: Hiking

Pinnacles National Park has over 30 miles of trails, ranging from easy to strenuous. Many trails intersect, and you can plan a short loop or a longer all-day trip. Trails are self-guiding. Popular destinations are Bear Gulch Reser­voir, High Peaks, and the Balconies area (see detail map and trail chart at right). 

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TEXT: Exploring the Two Caves

Balconies and Bear Gulch caves are talus caves created when boulders formed a roof over a narrow can­yon. Some cave areas are narrow and twisting, with low ceilings and uneven footing. Passing through may require scrambling over rocks and wading through water. The caves are dark; use a flashlight. Caves may be closed by flooding. Portions of Bear Gulch Cave are closed seasonally to protect sensitive bat species. Contact the park or check our website for the status of caves. 

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TEXT: When to visit

The park is open year-round, 24 hours a day. The busiest times are mid-February to early June, when the weather is comfortable and the wildflowers glorious. Weekends during those months are especially crowded, and you may need to park in one of the overflow lots. 

If you enjoy solitude, exploring peaceful trails, or discovering wildlife, why not try something different? Visit on a weekday or off-season. Bring a picnic dinner. Hike along Chalone Creek in the moonlight. Stroll along Old Pinnacles Trail when it is raining. Watch for condors soaring on warm updrafts, woodpeckers burying acorns in the bark of gray pines, or bobcats trotting along the road.

Would you like to learn firsthand about bats? How about seeing the Milky Way in a sky un­polluted by city lights? Ranger-led programs are available seasonally, as staffing allows (reservations may be required). Some activities are available year-round. Read park bulletin boards or contact the park about schedules.

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TEXT: Our birds and bats

Raptors (birds of prey), cliff-dwelling birds, and bats rear young in many rock formations. Please do not enter or climb in these areas during critical breeding seasons. For restrictions contact the park, ask a ranger, or check our website.

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TEXT: A Wilderness Wonder

Congress has protected nearly 16,000 acres of Pinnacles National Park as wilderness under the 1964 Wilderness Act. Wilderness is meant to protect forever the land’s natural conditions, opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, and scientific, educational, and historical values. In wilderness, people can sense being a part of the whole community of life on Earth. Preserving wilderness shows restraint and humility and benefits the generations that follow us. Visit www.wilderness.net.

Pinnacles National Park is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about parks and National Park Service programs in America’s communities visit www.nps.gov.

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TEXT: Try Out a Trail

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TEXT: East Side Trails

TEXT: Pinnacles Visitor Center to Bear Gulch day use area

2.3 miles one way, 1½ hours, elevation gain: 300 feet

Moderate

Walk along Chalone and Bear creeks from the Pinnacles Visitor Center to the Bear Gulch day use area. Portions of the Bench Trail are accessible to visitors in wheelchairs.

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TEXT: South Wilderness Trail

6.5 miles round trip, 3 to 4 hours, no elevation gain

Moderate

Follow this unmaintained trail to the park boundary, or simply meander through the magnificent grove of valley oaks. Begin at the campground and follow the Bench Trail to the South Wilderness marker. (See large map at lower left.)

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TEXT: Pinnacles Visitor Center to Balconies Cave

9.4 miles round trip, 3 to 4 hours, elevation gain: 300 feet

Moderate

Hike along sunny Chalone Creek on the Bench and Old Pinnacles trails to Balconies Cave. On the return trip, cross over the cave via the Balconies Cliffs for views of formations. Flashlight required in cave.

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TEXT: Moses Spring–Rim Trail Loop

Moses Spring–Rim Trail Loop 2.2-mile loop, 1½ hours, elevation gain: 500 feet

Moderate

This loop is a good choice for rock formations, talus caves, and the reservoir on a short hike and also a good choice for children. Bear Gulch Cave is open seasonally. Flashlight required in cave.

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TEXT: Condor Gulch–High Peaks Loop

5.3-mile loop, 3 to 5 hours, elevation gain: 1,300 feet

Strenuous

Walk through the heart of the Pinnacles rock formations, particularly along the Steep and Narrow section of the High Peaks Trail. Add the Rim and Moses Spring trails to extend the loop to 6.1 miles.

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TEXT: Chalone Peak Trail

9 miles round trip, 3 to 5 hours, elevation gain: 2,040 feet

Strenuous

Climb to the highest point in the park, North Chalone Peak, and be rewarded with views of the surrounding valleys. Continue on an unmaintained trail to South Chalone Peak for a longer hike. (See large map at lower left.)

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TEXT: Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies Cave

5.3 miles round trip, 4 to 5 hours, no elevation gain

Moderate

This sunny hike to Balconies Cave also leads to the towering rock formations of Machete Ridge and the Balconies Cliffs. Begin at the Old Pinnacles Trailhead. Flashlight required in cave.

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TEXT: West Side Trails

TEXT: North Wilderness Trail Loop

9.3-mile loop, 5 to 8 hours, elevation gain: 1,020 feet

Strenuous

This unmaintained trail climbs along ridgetops and then descends into the Chalone Creek bed, where it is marked by rock cairns. Return along the Old Pinnacles and Balconies trails.

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TEXT: Balconies Cliffs–Balconies Cave Loop

2.4-mile loop, 1 to 1½ hours, elevation gain: 100 feet

Easy to Moderate

This trail through Balconies Cave may require a bit of scrambling through talus passages. Wading may be required in winter. Flashlight required in cave.

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TEXT: Juniper Canyon Loop

4.3-mile loop, 2 to 3 hours, elevation gain: 1,215 feet

Strenuous

This steep trail climbs along switchbacks to the heart of the High Peaks. At the top, circle through the rock formations along the Steep and Narrow section of the High Peaks Trail and the Tunnel Trail.

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TEXT: High Peaks–Balconies Cave Loop

8.4-mile loop, 4 to 5 hours, elevation gain: 1,540 feet

Strenuous

Begin by climbing into the High Peaks, and the rest of the loop is downhill or flat. Return along the Old Pinnacles and Balconies trails, going over or through the cave. Flashlight required in cave.

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MAPS: Pinnacles National Park

MAP: Area Map

CREDIT:

National Park Service


DESCRIPTION:

This is an area map of central California that shows the location of Pinnacles National Park in relation to major cities and highways. It covers an area of roughly 150 square miles. It is oriented with north at the top. San Francisco is shown in the top left corner of the map, and Coalinga is shown in the bottom right corner. Pinnacles National Park is indicated in the southeast quadrant of the map. The scale of the map is shown on the bottom.


ASSOCIATED TEXT:

Getting to the park Pinnacles National Park is in central California, about 50 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and 140 miles south of the San Francisco Bay area. WARNING: CA 146 does NOT go through the park. To get from one entrance to the other (east or west) you must drive around the park; allow about two hours driving time.

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MAP: Park Map

CREDIT:

National Park Service


DESCRIPTION:

Short Description:

This is a large map showing the entirety of Pinnacles National Park. Its primary purpose is for information and wayfinding, though it also indicates the topography of the area. The map is oriented with north at the top and covers an area of roughly ten square miles. The roads and trails are indicated on the map, and the visitor centers are marked along Highway 146 at the eastern and western edges of the map. The road enters the park on both sides but does not connect in the middle.

Legend:

The legend has symbols for amenities and wayfinding. Amenities symbols include a. ranger station (symbol building with flag), b. picnic area (symbol picnic table), c. campground (symbol tent), d. wheelchair-accessible (symbol universal wheelchair), e. restrooms (symbol universal man and woman), f. drinking water (symbol white drinking glass). Wayfinding symbols include a. maintained trail (symbol black dashed line), b. unmaintained trail (symbol gray dashed line), c. trail through cave (symbol black dotted line), d. trail distance indicator (symbol black text with miles and kilometers).

Amenities:

Amenities will listed by location, starting at the West Visitor Contact Station on the left and going clockwise. Compass points indicate position on the map.

West Visitor Contact Station (located west): ranger station, restrooms, drinking water, wheelchair-accessible

East Entrance Station (located east): ranger station

Pinnacles Visitor Center (located east): picnic area

Pinnacles Campground (located east): campground, restrooms, drinking water, wheelchair-accessible

Peaks View (located east): picnic area, restrooms, drinking water

Roadways and Trails

The primary road on the map is Highway 146, shown entering the park on the east and west sides but does not connect. 146 enters the park by the West Visitor Contact Station and ends at the Chaparral parking area on the west side. On the east side, it goes past the Pinnacles Visitor Center and Peaks View before splitting about three and a half miles into the park. The right fork ends at the Old Pinnacles parking area, and the left fork ends at Bear Gulch. From Soledad, it is 12 miles or 19 kilometers to the Chaparral Trailhead Parking on the west side. Highway 25 is shown on the east side of the map, connecting to 146 at the east entrance. From Hollister, it is 30 miles or 48 kilometers to the east entrance of the park. La Gloria Road, an unpaved road, is shown connecting to 25 just north of the park.

There are numerous trails listed on the map. The Balconies Cave, North Wilderness, and Juniper Canyon Trails begin at the Chaparral Trailhead. The Bear Gulch Cave, Chalone Peak, and High Peaks Trails begin at Bear Gulch. The Old Pinnacles Trail begins at the Old Pinnacles Trailhead. The South Wilderness Trail begins near Peaks View. The Bench Trail begins at the Pinnacles Campground.

ASSOCIATED TEXT:

Most of California 146 is winding and one and a half lanes wide (in some places only one lane wide) and NOT recommended for RVs, large vehicles, or trailers.  

Driver's Note: 

California 146 is not a through road.  No roads cross the park.

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MAP: Detail Map

CREDIT:

National Park Service


DESCRIPTION:

This is a detail map of the center of the park. Its primary purpose is wayfinding. It is oriented with north at the top and covers an area of roughly three square miles. Highway 146 is shown where it ends at the Chaparral parking area on the west and the Old Pinnacles and Bear Gulch parking areas on the east.

Amenities

Amenities will be listed by location, starting at the Chaparral Trailhead Parking on the west and going clockwise. Compass points indicate position on the map.

Chaparral Trailhead Parking (located west): picnic area, wheelchair-accessible, restrooms, drinking water

Bear Gulch (located southeast): ranger station, picnic area, wheelchair-accessible, restrooms, drinking water

Moses Spring Trailhead (located southeast): restrooms, drinking water

Scout Peak (locate southwest): restrooms

Trails

Numerous trails are indicated on the map and are listed by starting location.

Chaparral Trailhead Parking: Balconies Trail to the Balconies Cliffs and Balconies Cave, North Wilderness Trail, and Juniper Canyon Trail to the High Peaks.

Old Pinnacles Trailhead Parking: Old Pinnacles Trail to the Balconies Cliffs, Balconies Cave, and North Wilderness Trail.

Bear Gulch: Condor Gulch Trail to the High Peaks, Moses Spring Trail to Bear Gulch Cave and Bear Gulch Reservoir, and Rim Trail.


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TEXT: What You Need to Know

TEXT: East Entrance

To the East Entrance

Take CA 25 to CA 146. Turn west on CA 146 into the park. 

East Entrance–Pinnacles Visitor Center

The visitor center, at the entrance to the campground, has information, a small bookstore, and exhibits. Staff can help you plan your visit. The visitor center is open year-round 9:30 am to 5 pm. There are picnic tables, restrooms, water, a pay phone, and parking.

Pinnacles Campground

The only campground in the park is inside the eastern boundary. NOTE: Camping is prohibited on the west side and outside of this designated campground. The campground offers tent, RV, and group sites; showers; and a store. Call 831-389-4485 for general campground information. For reservations visit www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777.

Bear Gulch

Bear Gulch has picnicking, trailheads, park headquarters, and Bear Gulch Nature Center. The nature center is open seasonally, as staffing permits. You can watch the park film, get a junior ranger book, and learn about the park’s natural and cultural history.

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TEXT: West Entrance

To the West Entrance

Take US 101; at Soledad turn east onto CA 146 and follow signs to the park. WARNING: The road from Soledad to west Pinnacles is steep and narrow; RVs, trailers, and large vehicles should avoid this entrance.

West Entrance–Chaparral Trailhead

Visitor contact station, restrooms, water, parking at trailhead. No phone. 


An automatic gate at the west entrance opens each morning at 7:30 am and closes at night. Visitors can leave the park after the gate is closed, but vehicles cannot enter when the gate is shut. This allows for late hiking and climbing. 

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TEXT: Loding, Food, and Gas

These are not available in Pinnacles National Park, but they can be found in nearby towns. You are welcome to picnic in the park.

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TEXT: Weather, Heat, and Water

Daytime temperatures in summer and early autumn can reach above 100ºF. • Hiking steep trails requires energy and results in greater water loss through sweating. • Wear a hat and clothing that provide ventilation and protection from the sun. • Drinking water is available only in developed areas; there is no water along any of the trails. • Carry and drink at least one liter of water per person per hour. • Heat and dehydration can be fatal.

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TEXT: Pets

Pets are not allowed on trails. They must be leashed while in parking lots and picnic areas and must be attended at all times. Animals left in vehicles during the heat of the day can quickly die from heat exhaustion.

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TEXT: Safety and Regulations

Hiking, caving, and climbing can be fun, but remember—if you get injured, you are a long way from medical help. Cell phones may not work in this remote park. Don’t let your guard down when it comes to safety. Be prepared. Please follow these regulations and safety guidelines:

Carry and drink plenty of water • Wear shoes with ankle support and non-slip soles that provide good traction—especially in caves, where the rocks can be slippery. • Carry a proper flashlight for exploring caves. Small lights like penlights and cell phone lights will not guide you safely through a dark, rugged cave. • Watch where you step, sit, or place your hands. Poison oak, stinging nettles, and rattlesnakes are in the park. 

Stay on established trails to help prevent erosion. • Green fences indicate restoration work; do not enter these areas. • Bicycles are not permitted on any trails. • Watch for pedestrians and wildlife on roads. • Feeding, approaching, or hunting wildlife is prohibited. • All plants, animals, rocks, and structures in the park are protected by federal law. This includes wildflowers, pine cones, and rocks. They are beautiful, but please leave them for the enjoyment of future visitors. • For firearms regulations, check the park website.

Emergencies contact a ranger or call 911

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IMAGE: Bear Gulch Cave

CREDIT: 

John Dittli


DESCRIPTION: 

A woman dressed for hiking in boots, shorts and shirt, stands on a rocky but level trail in Bear Gulch Cave. She is illuminated by soft sunlight that filters down through the boulders from above. Giant boulders form the cave walls and ceiling, each much larger than the woman. A light layer of green moss covers most of the boulders.


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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

Audio-described exhibits are offered at the West Visitor Contact Station, and braille translations of the park brochure are also available. We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website. 


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OVERVIEW: More information

Plan ahead. Contact the park and check our website for ideas about planning your trip, safety tips and regulations, ranger-led activities, and cave status. 


Address:  

Pinnacles National Park 

5000 Hwy. 146

Paicines, CA 95043-9770


Phone number:  

831-389-4485


Website:  

www.nps.gov/pinn


Additional links:

National Park Foundation

Join the park community.

www.nationalparks.org

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