Pinnacles National Monument - Pictures from May 2005
Pictures from Pinnacles National Monument - May 2005

Rock Outcrop - Pinnacles National Monument - 
   One of the typical volcanic outcrops at Pinnacles National Monument. 
  Rock Outcrop - Pinnacles National Monument - One of the typical volcanic outcrops at Pinnacles National Monument.
The rocks in this area were part of a bigger formation that occurred about 25 million years ago. San Andreas fault happened to be right underneath and in the middle of this formation. The Pacific plate moved the western-half northward and the North American plate moved the eastern-half southward. The eastern half is now in a place called Neenach Formation near Lancaster in Southern California.

As these rocks started moving northward along with the fault, they split and started moving along the

Pinnacles National Monument is located about 100 miles south of the bay area cities. There are two entrances to the park and there is no road linking the entrances. The west entrance "Chapparal Ranger Station" has a little visitor center and is reached from the city of Soledad after a nice 12-mile drive. The east entrance has the main visitor center (Bear Gulch Visitor Center") and is reached from the city of Hollister.

The view of the spires is great (can't have it any better) from the parking lot of the west entrance.

I did a 8-mile loop trip in the park in May-2005. It rained a lot in the bay area this spring and rainfall was almost twice the average in many areas. It had just rained in the park when I visited. There was plenty of water (relatively speaking) and greenery in the park and I was quite surprised by lush green flora on some trails. The pictures in this gallery are from the loop-hike. I started at Juniper canyon trail (lot of shade in the lower part), went up to the high peaks, went around them, continued on the high peaks trail, Old Pinnacles trail and the Balconies caves trail.

This is a dayhiker's place and the park is quite small. The must-hike trails on the west side are "high peaks loop" and the "balconies caves loop". If you have the time do the longer loop combining both the high peaks and the balconies-caves (which is what I did). At the Bear Gulch area, there are "Moses Springs caves". If you have the time, do the high peaks loop.

Each person visiting the caves has to have a flash-light. In winter and early spring, the caves are wet and water showers down from the ceiling. The rest of the park is quite hot in summer and you need food and at least two liters of water if you are hiking up to the high peaks and make a loop hike.

Pinnacles National Monument - Miner's Lettuce - 
    Miner's Lettuce - edible (Thank you LV!)
  Pinnacles National Monument - Miner's Lettuce - Miner's Lettuce - edible (Thank you LV!)
Bush Monkeyflower - Pinnacles National Monument (5/05) - 
  Sticky or Bush Monkeyflower (Mimulus urantiacus). (Thank you LV!)
  Bush Monkeyflower - Pinnacles National Monument (5/05) - Sticky or Bush Monkeyflower (Mimulus urantiacus). (Thank you LV!)
Visitors at the top of the spires. - 

  Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)

  Visitors at the top of the spires. - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
High Peaks trail is quite strenuous. From the west side, you start on the Juniper canyon trail which is moderate-to-strenuous to reach the High Peaks trail. However, it is quite scenic and take your time enjoying the views. You can return to the trailhead via a small loop along the Tunnel trail. Bring lunch and water!
Group of students at the top of spires - 
  Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005) 
  Group of students at the top of spires - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
Bear Gulch area from High Peaks - 
    View of the Bear Gulch reservoir from the High Peaks area.
  Bear Gulch area from High Peaks - View of the Bear Gulch reservoir from the High Peaks area.
Stream at the top of Pinnacles (May 2005) - 
   Streams and springs at the top of spires (during spring).  
  Stream at the top of Pinnacles (May 2005) - Streams and springs at the top of spires (during spring).
It had just rained and this was a rainy spring. There were a lot of little streams at the top of the spires and the wildflowers were all blooming (Poppy, Owl's Clover and numerous others I don't know about)
Rock Lettuce - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005) - 
    Rock Lettuce flower at Pinnacles - (Thank you LV!) 
  Rock Lettuce - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005) - Rock Lettuce flower at Pinnacles - (Thank you LV!)
Rocky outcrops at Pinnacles - 
   Views of more rocky outcrops along the high peaks trail
  Rocky outcrops at Pinnacles - Views of more rocky outcrops along the high peaks trail
In a short while, you will be walking very close to them.
High Peaks Trail - Pinnacles National Monument - 
  Trail at the bottom of the spires. 
  High Peaks Trail - Pinnacles National Monument - Trail at the bottom of the spires.
You don't have to crawl, but you have to crouch in some parts of the trail. You will be at the base of the rocks and it is very narrow at several points. The steps are very small. Walk very slowly and carefully. Use the handrails where provided.
Balconies Hills View - 
  Balconies Hills - view from High Peaks trail.  
  Balconies Hills View - Balconies Hills - view from High Peaks trail.
At the base of these hills are the Balconies Caves formed by a pile of rocks that fell into a narrow canyon. There is a trail that goes to the Balconies caves and you can return via the Balconies Hills trail which takes you to the top of these hills.
Green Meadow near Old Pinnacles Junction (May 2005) - 
  Lush green meadows and trees near Old Pinnacles/High Peaks Jn. 
 Green Meadow near Old Pinnacles Junction (May 2005) - Lush green meadows and trees near Old Pinnacles/High Peaks Jn.
Meadow and trees on Old Pinnacles trail - 
  Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  Meadow and trees on Old Pinnacles trail - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
Meadow and trees on Old Pinnacles trail - 
   Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  Meadow and trees on Old Pinnacles trail - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
Chalone Creek at Chalone Creek Picnic Area - 
  Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  Chalone Creek at Chalone Creek Picnic Area - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
Chalone Creek at Chalone Creek Picnic Area - 
   Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  Chalone Creek at Chalone Creek Picnic Area - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
Chalone Creek at Chalone Creek Picnic Area - 
   Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  Chalone Creek at Chalone Creek Picnic Area - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
This picnic area is reachable by car on the east side of the Pinnacles National Monument. You can reach this by foot along the Balconies Caves trail from the west side. This trail is quite flat (except inside the caves of course).
Trail east of Balconies Caves - 
  Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  Trail east of Balconies Caves - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
There is a lot of green vegetation in this area during spring.
Moss on Chalone Creek - 
  Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  Moss on Chalone Creek - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
There is a few places where you have to cross the Chalone Creek. There is not much water, but this area is very beautiful.
West fork of Chalone Creek near Caves - 
   Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  West fork of Chalone Creek near Caves - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
The west fork of Chalone creek comes from springs on the high peaks just above the Balconies caves and from the west-side of the park.
Balconies Caves - Entrance from the west - 
 Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  Balconies Caves - Entrance from the west - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
Entrance to the Balconies caves from the west side. The inside of the cave is very wet and flooded in some areas during rainy season. The Balconies caves are very small compared to the Bear Gulch caves.
West fork Chalone Creek from the cave (May 2005) - 
 Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  West fork Chalone Creek from the cave (May 2005) - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
Cold stream coming out of the cave. Water drips down from the ceiling inside the cave during rainy season.
Poppy flowers in the evening (May 2005) - 
 Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  Poppy flowers in the evening (May 2005) - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
There is a lot of poppy flowers near the Chapparal area, but the best times to see them are when the sun is up.
High Peaks of Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005) - 
 Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
  High Peaks of Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005) - Pinnacles National Monument (May 2005)
View of the high peaks from the parking lot on the west side (Chapparal Ranger station).


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