First Time Visiting Pinnacles National Park
One of the neat things about moving to an unfamiliar area is that everything is new. When the seasoned natives go away during holidays, we stay local and play tourist. So, the Christmas break was a perfect time to explore the beautiful California central coast. With Aaron home for the break from college, we wanted to make the most of our family time too.
We each picked a different place that we really wanted to see and planned our family adventure. Our calendar quickly filled with new and exciting destinations. The first up on our list was Pinnacles National Park. This is a newer national park that was created in 2012. It also is a release site for endangered California condors that have been raised in captivity as part of the Condor Recovery Plan. These majestic birds became extinct in the wild in 1987. Today, you can see them effortlessly soaring above the Pinnacles casting their shadows on the cliff faces.
Pinnacles National Park is located along the central coast of California south of Monterey and approximately 5 miles east of Soledad. It sits in the California Coastal Mountains on the infamous San Andres Fault. It actually is part of a long extinct volcano. The eastern half of the volcano is just north of Los Angeles. The Pinnacles are the western half that has traveled north on the Pacific plate leaving the other half behind on the North American plate.
We arrived a little later in the afternoon, but still set out on a hike. We took the Balconies Trail that skirted the base of the main rock formations. We looked up in awe at the towering cliffs. Rock climbers must love this place! The trail took us to some talus caves. The boys eagerly dove down into the darkness, while Mish and I followed a little more cautiously. Being Scouts, we were prepared with flashlights. A few feet into the first cave I shown my light upward to reveal small brown bats hanging from the rocks above. Luckily, they seemed to be sound asleep despite the intrusion of light and noise into their home.
We made a loop and came back to the entrance. After a nice pic-nick, we headed out on another trail. This time we made for the summit of the Pinnacles. This relatively steep trail zig-zagged up the front of the rock formation to a high perch among the condors. The large black and white birds glided on the currents above us making it clear that this was their natural home. Us legged creatures were just temporary visitors.
Even though we had to work hard for the view, it was worth it. From the top of the rocks you can enjoy unobstructed 360-degree views of the surrounding area. Aaron and Elijah easily sprinted up to the top followed by Mish and finally me bringing up the rear. Even the turtle finished the race! I like to think that I savored the experience more. Ok, maybe I shouldn’t have eaten so many Christmas cookies.
Our next family adventure was to an even more impressive rock formation, so check back!