Pinnacles National Park

January 2015

We went for a very short camping trip to Pinnacles with some friends. Pinnacles was upgraded from being a national monument to being a national park in 2013, making it the newest national park in the US. It is located about 1.5h away from Santa Cruz.

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We camped overnight on Friday and hiked all day Saturday. It went below freezing overnight, so hot tea and chicken broth were very popular in the morning. The campsite was in a valley so it was still in shadow when we woke up. We got out to our hiking trail by 9:30 am. I was super impressed because we were a group of 7 and only 30 min behind schedule (which was largely my fault since I had originally planned for the group to do a hiking trail that did not exist, so when we got to where we thought it was we realized we had to find a new trail and then drive over).

We decided to do a loop trail leaving from the Old Pinnacles trailhead. It was an 8.9 mile hike roundtrip and we passed through the Balconies Caves.

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The first bit was steep uphill.

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There were many small purple wild flowers along the way called Shooting Stars.

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Once we got to the top of the ridge, this was what the view was like:

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We walked a ways along the ridge until we saw our first pinnacles.

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We stopped along the way for many snack breaks. We saw some more interesting wildflowers. The ones bellow are called Indian Warriors.

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The trail led us to a split where you could continue on or climb up one of the pinnacles. We did the latter.

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We continued along the trail, which wound through the pinnacles formations.

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Finding Dmitriy in the below photo is like playing “Where’s Waldo”.

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These reddish rocks were my favourite view. Many of them were slightly multicolour because of the lichens growing on their surface.

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Near the end of the hike we reached the Balconies Caves. There was a gate to go in.

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There was not much light in the entrance, and none inside the caves, so my photos are poor/nonexistant. This was while you are going to the entrance through a slim crack in the rocks. Giant, spherical boulders have fallen down and gotten wedged in the crack. You often had to duck or even crawl under them.

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We climbed down into this hole to get into the cave. It was cool but short. I’d love to find a bigger cave to go exploring in.

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Once in the caves, you go down a passage for a bit until you come to what is usually a small stream. Since there is a drought now, there was very little water, but apparently sometimes you have to wade through it to get to the other end of the cave.

It was about another 3 miles to the end of the trail. We headed home in the late afternoon. The highway passed through very beautiful green, rolling hills.