Pinnacles National Monument
Sunshine on Pinnacles
Pinnacles:The Point of Perfection
A national monument that even many native Californians haven't visited, Pinnacles National Monument is the perfect place to commune with nature, hike, rock climb, and try to spot wildlife, including the endangered California Condor, all in half of an ancient volcano.
Pinnacles National Monument
Pinnacles National Monument has a long history of human-occupation. Amerindian artifacts show that they visited the area, though probably didn't live there all year round, since Pinnacles has such extreme summer heat. Costanoans, or people of the coast, lived in western central California, and two subgroups of the Costanoans, the Chalone and Mutsun, lived nearby. The Chalone and Mutsun peoples are still around and are working to gain tribal recognition. Before the European intrusion, the Amerindians around Pinnacles probably hunted rabbits, deer, elk, and antelope, gathered acorns to grind into meal, and gathering grass seeds, leafy parts of plants and plant bulbs as well. They wove baskets and lived in brush huts.
When the Spanish Missionaries arrived the life of the Amerindians change dramatically. Between 1769 and 1823, the Spanish established 21 missions between San Diego and Sonoma, and used the Amerindians as their labor-force to do so. The mission closest to Pinnacles National Monument is in Soledad, and was built in 1791. This is on the west side of Pinnacles, near where the Chalone Amerindians lived. Of course the Spanish conscripted the Chalone, as well as the Mutsun people, and forced them to labor building the missions as well as being indoctrinated into the Catholic faith. The diseases they brought, along with their rosary beads and bibles, killed off huge numbers of the Amerindians in California and though we have no real idea of the numbers of pre-European Amerindians, it's estimated that there were 300,000 Amerindians in 1770, and by the mid-1800s, there was less than half of that.
When homesteaders from the east starting arriving in California in the mid-1800s, California was transformed again. The 1849 gold rush caused a huge influx of people, as well as getting the US to make California into a state. In 1891, Schuyler Hain, a homesteader, arrived in the Pinnacles area from Michigan and during the next 20 years become known as the "Father of Pinnacles". Entranced by the beauty there, Schuyler started leading tours up and through Bear Valley and into the caves. He also started trying to protect the area by speaking to groups and writing articles. He succeeded, and in January 1908 Pinnacles was named as a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt. In that same time period Roosevelt also set aside Muir Woods and the Grand Canyon to be protected as national monuments. The original Pinnacles National Monument was 2500 acres.
In the thirties the CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corps. made a camp at what is now the Old Pinnacles trailhead area. During the next decade, working in the cooler winter months, the CCC boys worked to improve Pinnacles. They fixed roads and created trails, constructed the dam that forms Bear Gulch Reservoir and added concrete steps and guard rails on the trail to the caves. In 1936, they also started leading visitors through the caves using lanterns.
Ever since its creation, Pinnacles has been added to and enjoyed. It is now around 26,000 acres from its original 2500, and is a great place for us all to enjoy.
Dates and information from Pinnacles National Monument, History and Culture
More Information on the History of Pinnacles
- Wikipedia on Pinnacles National Monument
The Pinnacles page at Wikipedia
Geology of Pinnacles
Geology of Pinnacles
Pinnacles has a rich geologic history. Quite a long time ago, a volcano erupted. This was hundreds of miles south of the Pinnacles. Half of this volcano was on one tectonic plate, the Pacific Plate, and the other half was on the North American Plate. Well, as most people know, those two plates are moving differently from one another. The Pacific Plate is moving northward, and the Pacific Plate is moving southward. They aren't moving very quickly, only about as fast as your fingernails grow. As time passed, this slow movement adds up though, and it has moved half of the volcano (The Pinnacles) hundreds of miles north of where it formed, and where its other half still resides.
Hiking In Pinnacles
Pinnacles has some wonderful hiking spots. There are trails close to parking lots and easy to get to, and there are trails far in the wilds, where there aren't many people.
One of the most popular trails, the Bear Gulch Trail passes through caves filled with the trickling sound of water, and occasionally endangered bats. Another popular trail allows you to climb high into the sky where it's often possible to spot enormous and endangered California Condors soaring through the sky.
It's a nice trail through talus caves, up to the reservoir. Be smart and bring sweatshirts and flashlights, since it is cold and dark in Bear Gulch Cave. Also, it's important to make sure this trail will be open before deciding to take it. It is closed part of the year to protect an endangered bat species that raise their young inside.
Trail Going through Cave
Walking Bear Gulch Trail
Hiking Through a Bat-Filled Cave
Climbing the Reservoir Trail
Bear Gulch Reservoir
Pinnacles Trail Guide
Looking Out of a Talus Cave
Rock Climbing In Pinnacles
Rock Climbing In Pinnacles
One of the things Pinnacles is best known for is its rock climbing. Shear rock faces afford lots of fun and chance to try out your experienced rock climbing skills.
Rock Climber at Pinnacles
Important Things to Remember When Climbing at Pinnacles
*Pinnacles is a National Monument. Keep your climbing low-impact and avoid damaging the rocks or area.
*There are often climbing restrictions due to nesting birds of prey and other endangered animals. Check out what areas are closed before planning your route.
*Use toilets when available. Really, please. No one wants to deal with your crap.
*Use waste containment pouches and pack them out if there isn't a toilet available.
*Stay on climber access trails when they're available.
*Avoid damaging the surrounding area while hiking to your climb. Don't cause erosion or kill plants by taking shortcuts.
*Don't damage the rocks. This area belongs to all of us, not just you, so be polite and don't screw it up.
*Each move you make, think low-impact. Yes, there are some things that are unavoidable, but there are some things you can avoid.
*Don't damage the lichen. Clean individual handholds as necessary, but you don't need to harm entire areas.
*Do not stage or belay from park trails unless the trail is a designated climber access trail
*To avoid marring the appearance of the rocks, use natural colored anchors.
*Motorized drills are not allowed in Pinnacles National Monument.
*Avoid leaving slings at rappel stations, but if you have to, use camouflage webbing so it blends in to the rock.
*The rocks at Pinnacles are soft. This can cause anchors to pull right out. Always use caution and test each one before depending on it.
*There's lots of loose debris at Pinnacles, watch out for it and of course, if you dislodge any yell "rock!" in case there's anyone beneath you.
*Chalk mars the area for others, so think about it before you use it.
*In some areas you may not need chalk. There's lots of dirt and dust.
*Use chalk substitutes if chalk is needed.
*Summer at Pinnacles is HOT. If you must climb during summer, bring water and plan for the heat.
And always remember, behaving with courtesy to others that want to enjoy the park is extremely important. Don't mar the beauty that is Pinnacles and ruin it for everyone else. You don't want to be the reason they close Pinnacles to rock climbers.
Rock Climber's Guide to Pinnacles
More Climbing Information About Pinnacles
Want to know more about climbing the rocks in Pinnacles National Monument? Check out these links.
- Friends of Pinnacles
Friends of Pinnacles is a nonprofit organization dedicated to working directly with the National Park Service to preserve rock climbing and the environment at Pinnacles National Monument. Learn about closures due to endangered bird nests and other in
- National Park Services-Plan Your Climbing Visit
This official National Park Services page describes the rules and regulations as well as recommendations about your climbing at Pinnacles.
- Rock Climbing.com- Pinnacles National Monument Climbing Routes
Information about the individual routes for climbing at Pinnacles as well as a forum area to find climbing partners and information.
Sitting in Nature
What to Do in Pinnacles
Condors of Pinnacles
Condors in Pinnacles
Pinnacles National Monument is probably best well-known for being the location of the release of several California Condors. These birds are the largest in North America and extremely endangered.
California Condors were hard hit by lead-poisoning, poaching, and habitat destruction. The species was basically decimated and most people thought all hope was lost. But some people wanted to try to save the condors, bring them back from the brink of extinction. Only 22 California Condors were left in the entire world, so they were captured to prevent anything from happening to the remaining few. These condors were then studied and breed in captivity. Through a lot of hard work and immense patience, the biologists were able to get the Condor's population numbers quite a bit higher and they were just barely saved from extinction, though they still got a tough fight ahead of them to come back fully.
California Condors are regularly seen in the Pinnacles area, one of the few places where you'll likely have luck seeing them, so it's worth a trip to Pinnacles just to try and spot these incredible birds with an incredible story of survival.
Return of the Condor
Wildflowers In the Area
Video of Pinnacles National Park
Learn About the National Parks of the West
More Information About Pinnacles
© 2009 Alisha Vargas