The 7 Best Attractions & Things to Do in Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is a beautiful green space located in California.

Known for being a great place to spend time outdoors, Pinnacles National Park includes hiking trails, camping, and incredible wildlife. 

The park even has many roads that make it easy to drive through. 

So, if you are lucky enough to visit Pinnacles National Park, make sure you do some of these fantastic things to make sure you make the most of your time. 

7 Top-Rated Things to Do in Pinnacles National Park 

1. Hiking Trails

If you are visiting Pinnacles National Park in hopes of getting some exercise and spending time outdoors with nature, then you are in luck. 

There are many great trails at Pinnacles National Park, and regardless of your level of hiking experience or how much time you want to spend on the trails, you can easily find a route that meets your needs. 

In fact, you may decide you want to hike a different course each time you visit the Pinnacles National Park. Whether you choose Prewett Point Trail at the West Entrance or Blue Oak Trail at the park’s center, every path allows you to see the beauty that Pinnacles can offer. 

So, here are a few of the most popular trails to consider hiking.

  • Bear Gulch Cave Trail
  • Juniper Canyon Trail
  • Moses Spring Trail
  • High Peaks Trail
  • Balconies Trail
  • Rim Trail
  • Tunnel Trail
  • Condor Gulch Trail
  • Bear Gulch Loop Trail 
  • Juniper Canyon Loop Trail
  • Balconies Cave Loop Trail 
  • High Peaks Loop 

The most exciting trail is the Chalone Peak Trail, where you can climb 3,304 feet to the highest peak in the park. 

2. Fishing

Whether you love to fish or have never done so before and are ready to try it for the first time, Pinnacles National Park is a great place to reel in some great catches. 

The Bear Gulch Reservoir, in particular, is the perfect location to cast a line. And you have a chance to catch all different types of fish here. 

The Pinnacles National Park is home to the three-spined stickleback, a favorite among fishers. There are also numerous frogs, salamanders, and insects that call this park home.

3. Caving

If you want to see a unique side of Pinnacles National Park, you may want to consider caving. Pinnacles National Park caves contain many fallen boulders, cliffs, high peaks, and volcanic formations, making for an experience like no other. 

Bear Gulch Cave is one of the more popular caves in this area. And many people enjoy a rock climb inside and outside of the talus caves as well as the nearby high peaks. 

When visiting the park, you will find two ways to access the caves. One area is near the West Entrance, while the other is right inside the East Entrance. 

But, overall, whether you choose to enter from the east side or the west side, be sure to check out some of these beautiful caves in the Pinnacles National Park, such as Balconies Cave.

4. Visitor Centers

If you really want to learn more about Pinnacles National Park or any of the California national parks, you should stop by their Visitor Centers. 

These Visitor Centers also function as the visitor contact station, so you can call in with any questions you have before you get to the park or while you’re there. 

The East Pinnacles Visitor Center is located on the east side of the park and has tons of brochures and maps that show you around the area. You can also learn a little more about the park’s history or talk with the employees to ask questions about the National Park Service and other facts about the park.

You’ll especially want to find out more about the talus caves throughout the park. If you venture to ask, you’ll learn that a talus cave is a special formation that sports a narrow canyon filled with boulders. 

You should also know that you can take a shuttle from the campgrounds to the west park entrance so that you can easily get to the center. 

Lastly, the east side of the park does not have a visitor center, but you can find a book store with souvenirs. 

5. Bear Gulch Nature Center

The Bear Gulch Nature Center is a great way to learn about the animals at Pinnacles National Park. You can see animals on display, exhibits about the wildlife, and even see live animal shows from time to time. 

There’s also friendly staff who are nearby and ready to answer any questions about the park and all the animals that call it home. 

Additionally, you can pick up the Pinnacles National Park map so you can find your way around the park while you are out looking for wildlife.

6. Camping

Camping is a wonderful way to experience everything the park has to offer and take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The best place to camp in the Pinnacles National Park is the Pinnacles Campground. 

The campground is not far from the East Entrance and has over 134 campsites that are great for tent and RV camping. There’s even a swimming pool on-site, and it’s close to popular attractions in the park, such as Bear Gulch Cave, the High Peaks Trail, and the talus caves. 

Meanwhile, the RV sites are spacious and near the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. 

Finally, don’t forget to get out of your tent at night and see the astounding view of the stars that is hard to get anywhere else in California. 

7. Observe Wildlife

One of the reasons so many people flock to national parks all over the country is to see wild animals in their natural habitats. And you can definitely observe many different animals and other species at Pinnacles.

Golden Eagles

Golden eagles often nest here and in other national parks in California. 

If you want to view them, you just have to look for high areas within the park. The West Pinnacles, in particular, is a great spot to find them. 

Also, rock climbers often run into them on their rock climbing adventures, and some people have even reported seeing them soaring over the Bear Gulch parking lot.

Bats

You can find bats in Balconies Cave and many other caves along the trails and loops on the west side of the Pinnacles. The Townsend’s big-eared bats are among the most common and prefer Bear Gulch Cave. 

During bat breeding season, you can see them leaving caves at night and find them perched in random areas within the park. It’s also not unheard of to find one perched under a picnic table or in a door frame.

California Condors

California Condors are spectacular and rare birds, most commonly seen along Condor Gulch. The California Condor calls the park home, and viewing them is one of the top things to do in Pinnacles National Park. 

If you are lucky enough to see a California Condor in the park or anywhere else on the central coast, you can snap a photo or just watch as it soars through the sky. 

Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers are another animal that you can search for if you are looking for popular things to do in Pinnacles National Park. They are elusive, but you can often see them in trees drilling holes for insects. 

You can also find them at Saguaro National Park.

Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are common in San Francisco and other mid and southern parts of California. Thus, many of them call Pinnacles National Park home. 

These tiny birds are hard to see, but if you do spot one, you can watch as it jolts around from flower to flower. 

They are particularly common on the west side of the park.

Interesting Facts About Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park sits on three fault lines: the San Andreas Fault, the Chalone Creek Fault, and the Pinnacles Fault. The unique location of this national park has created narrow canyons, volcanic rocks, high peaks, and low valleys. 

Interestingly, the rocky peaks that you can find in Pinnacles and in other parts of central California occurred because of a seismic shift in the San Andres Fault. 

Additionally, the Pinnacles volcanic formation is the main reason for the beauty and natural wonder in the park, making it a nice change from the vibe of any major city in central or southern California. 

Pinnacle is one of the top attractions in the San Francisco Bay area, and few California National Parks have the same features and high peaks. The elevation gain also creates an excellent place for wildlife to frolic.

Thus, if you love national parks, there’s plenty to adore about this one.

Conclusion

Whether you come to Pinnacles National Park to hike Moses Spring Trail, are passing through on your way to a national monument, or are driving down the coast or through Death Valley, be sure to stop by and enjoy everything this beautiful and scenic park has to offer. There is something for everyone, and the Salinas Valley is gorgeous any time of year. 

If you are looking for things to do in Pinnacles National Park, be sure to check out some of the options above. Of course, there are plenty of other attractions that could make the Pinnacles National Park list of activities that aren’t already mentioned, but these are some of the top favorites.

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