Pinnacles National Monument: 21 March 2004

Latitude: North 36° 31.282’

Longitude: West 121° 09.993’

Photos by Neil Mishalov

Pinnacles National Monument is located approximately 35 miles south of Hollister, California and about 135 miles south of my home in Berkeley, California. In November, 1994, I did a bicycle ride into part of the park, and have been interested in seeing more of the park since that time. The Stanford University Outing Club scheduled a hike through the park on Sunday 21 March 2004, and I decided to join the hike. The park is well known for its sweeping views, excellent rock climbing terrain, talus caves and pinnacle rock formations.

The land upon which Pinnacles National Monument is situated was set aside as a national monument on 16 January 1908. Initial development of the monument was undertaken by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) from 1933 through 1942. The park is maintained by the National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior.

The unusual rock formations in Pinnacles National Monument are the remains of an ancient volcano. Or rather they are part of the remains, because the rest of the volcano lies almost 200 miles to the southeast. The San Andreas Rift Zone runs just east of the park. When the volcano erupted 23 million years ago, part of the volcano was on the Pacific Plate and the other part of the volcano was on the North American Plate. Pinnacles National Monument contains that part of the volcano on the Pacific Plate, and the Pacific Plate has been moving slowly northwest for the past 23 million years. So Pinnacles National Monument is now approximately 195 miles from where it was 23 million years ago, near what is now known as Bakersfield, California.

Some hike factoids and statistics: Time on the trail: 10:40 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Number of hikers: 19. Distance covered: 12.3 miles. Total ascent: 2,780 feet. Maximum elevation: 2,700 ft. Route: Bear Gulch Visitor Center => Bear Gulch Trail => Bear Gulch Caves Trail => High Peaks Trail => Juniper Canyon Trail => Balconies Trail => Balconies Caves Trail => Old Pinnacles Trail => High Peaks Trail => Condor Gulch Trail => Bear Gulch Visitor Centor. Trail map (pdf format)

All Images and Text Copyright © by Neil Mishalov


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Starting the hike on the Bear Gulch Trail Notice the rock climber ascending the rock face A view from the Bear Gulch Trail
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Rock formations along the trail Sun, rocks and plant life Heading towards Bear Gulch Cave
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Park Ranger Charles Ewing provided some interesting information about the cave and the bats that occupy the cave Cave entrance Inside the cave
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In the cave Sunlight shining into the cave People with flashlights navigating through the cave
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An opening to the outside A creek flows through the cave There were some tight squeezes necessary to get through to the other side of the cave
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A pathway built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's A precariously balanced rock Exiting the Bear Gulch cave
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Finally we break out into daylight Bear Gulch Reservoir is located just outside the cave Bear Gulch Reservoir
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Rock formations On the High Peaks Trail Interesting rock formation
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Hiking on the High Peaks Trail On the High Peaks Trail Indian Warrior (Pedicularis densiflora)
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Beautiful Lichen An unusual rock formation Interesting
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A rock outcropping On the High Peaks Trail A view from the High Peaks Trail
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Rock formation Looking North from the High Peaks Trail We continue to climb up the High Peaks Trail
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Wild flowers Another unusual rock formation Weathered and eroded rocks
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Lichen Weathered rocks Looking West. The Salinas Valley is covered in fog and the Coast Range of mountains is in the distance. Beyond the Coast Range is Monterey, Big Sur and the Pacific Ocean
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The high point of the hike: 2,700 feet Matthew Blum, the intrepid leader of the hike, at 2,700 feet Rock formation
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Descending towards Chaparral Ranger Station on the Juniper Canyon Trail Heading down the trail California Poppies, the California State Flower
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Heading East on the Balconies Caves Trail A monolith On the Balconies Caves Trail
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What caused this interesing rock formation? A jumble of boulders The entrance to the Balconies Caves Trail. The gate is to protect the bats that nest and hibernate in the caves. The caves are only open to humans when the Bats have exited the caves
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A small passageway Descending into the Cave Yes! We exit the second and final cave on the hike
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We start our final ascent up the eastern portion of the High Peaks Trail Up we go A Shooting Star
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Some more beautiful lichen An unusual looking rock Looking Northeast
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A panoramic view from the High Peaks Trail Wild Lilac We continue our ascent
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The Stanford Outing Club and the "Confused" Hiking Club (yes, that is really their name) which is associated with University of California, Berkeley, meet at the intersection of the High Peaks Trail and the Condor Gulch Trail Indian Paint Brush The sun is setting behind the ridge top
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Descending the Condor Gulch Trail Within in a mile of the starting point of this hike One last scene of the beautiful rock formations at Pinnacles National Monument

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This page created, and all photographs copyright 2004, by Neil Mishalov on 22 March 2004.