The park is located near the town of Soledad, some 70 kilometers southeast of Monterey and about 130 kilometers from San Francisco. The National Park is divided into two sections which are interconnected via hiking trails but not by road. To go from east to west entrance (or vice versa) by car, one will have to use Highway 101. The East entrance is open daily around the clock. At this entrance, there is also the park’s visitor center, open daily from 9:30 am to 5 pm. The West entrance is open daily from 7:30 am to 8 pm, there is another, smaller information center here which is accessible daily until 4:30 pm.
Archeologists have made findings here which allow the conclusion that already some 2000 years ago, members of the Native Ohlone people have lived here. However, the Natives’ numbers dwindled the more Europeans came into the region. In 1791, Spanish missionaries had built a mission in Soledad and from about 1810 on, larger numbers of settlers arrived. The area that is the National Park today however was mostly kept out of this development and could be conserved as a wilderness area. Only from the 1880s on, the number of visitors in that area increased, mostly in the form of weekend trippers. One settler from Michigan, named Schuyler Hain, built a home in the middle of the wilderness of Bear Valley and he not only took over responsibilities as postmaster but also began to show travelers around the area. He became a conservationist and actively fought for the nature around his home. His efforts were finally rewarded in 1908 when the region was made a National Monument. In the following decades, infrastructure in the area was gradually improved, in the 1930s, many trails were blazed and a number of wooden shacks for visitors were constructed. By purchasing several of the surrounding properties, the park’s acreage increased gradually, today it is about 10700 hectares in size. In January 2013, President Obama signed the bill that lifted Pinnacles to the status of a National Park.
Main visitation times for the area are spring and fall. Since a large percentage of visitors comes here to hike or climb, those cooler seasons are preferred over summer when temperatures often go up to 30° C and beyond. It is recommendable to bring enough water, especially if longer trips are planned, but there is also a small store at the campground, where drinks, snacks and other goods are available. The privately operated and well equipped campground is the only possible accommodation within the park and it is also accessible for RVs. In addition, there are a number of B&Bs and hotels in towns in the area.
More than 20 million years ago, here, not far from the San Andreas fault, the Neenach volcano erupted. It is assumed that this volcano was split due to tectonic movements of the Pacific plate and that one of the thus created halves moved in a northern direction with a velocity of about one centimeter per year, where it today forms Pinnacles National Park, in some 300 kilometers distance from the other half.
The rocks derived from these geological faults mainly attract climbers, who will find various routes with varying difficulty levels. Occasionally some of the rocks will be blocked from traffic to protect the raptors nesting here, especially the prairie falcons that are surprisingly common around here. Some 150 further species of bird have been counted in the Park area. In addition, there are 14 different species of snakes, various frogs, toads and salamanders and almost 50 species of mammals, with foxes, racoons, boars and bats being among them. The latter find refuge in the many caves in rocks and rubble; 14 different species have already been identified. The caves can be visited, but they are also being closed occassionally with regard to the animals living here. By far the largest part of the park is designated wilderness area, this is where some especially endangered species have their homes.
More information on Pinnacles National Park on the website of the National Park Service.