On our road trip home to California from Utah, Mark and I had enough fuel in our tanks to visit one more national park before heading home. Since Pinnacles National Park was somewhat ‘along the route’ home, we decided to pay it a much overdue visit. I’d already heard so many things about the park, such as trekking through a cave, and so I couldn’t resist the allure of one final adventure before returning home.
Pinnacles National Park is one of the newer national parks in the United States and was officially signed into law in 2013 by President Obama. After taking turns driving 8 hours all night from Bryce National Park, Mark and I arrived at Pinnacles early the next day deathly tired and unimpressed by the visitor’s center. After spending so much time at Zion and Bryce’s Visitor’s Centers, where they had larger more updated buildings, water bottle refill centers, and tons of people milling about, Pinnacles seemed a bit desolate in comparison.
Although Pinnacles’ visitor’s center lacked some of the luster that the other national parks had, we were wrong about the park being unimpressive. The vibrant green leaves, dark gray rock formations, and shade was a welcoming change of scenery after spending nearly a week surrounded by sand and red canyons.
We began our voyage on the Bear Gulch Cave Trail. Be sure to bring a headlamp and flashlights so that you can explore the cave awaiting you ahead. We walked through a shaded, well maintained trail before we reached the cave. (Most trails that we took were clear cut, marked, and well maintained)
I had my reservations about entering the dark and ominous cave, especially since there was only one other pair of people around us during that portion of the hike. Isolated in the dark…talk about creepy and awesome! My adrenaline was totally pumping, people.
But I mean, come on, a pitch black cave with no end in sight, the sounds of rushing water, and the frightful scenes of every single horror movie I’d ever seen swirling in the back of my mind made me afraid that some razor toothed monster lurking in the damp shadows of this cave would clamp its jaws around my neck. Yeah, please tell someone to turn off my overactive imagination.
During some portions of our trek through the cave, there were patches of light that dappled through the open spaces.
We also had to crouch down and do a forward, squat walk like movement to get to the light. As background music, we had the sounds of part of the waterfall coursing under our bridge.
To be honest, the cave was a lot longer than I’d expected and my eyes eventually adjusted to the darkness as we continued our journey. Most of our cave hike composed of carefully climbing up stairs.
We embraced the sunlight with open arms and marched up more steps. After being sleep deprived and having been sitting in a long car ride, this was the perfect way to wake up.
If you have young kids and want to just do a short fun hike, this is the best trail to take. Hike through the caves and end up at this reservoir where you can enjoy a picnic in the warmth of the sun.
The rest of our voyage was completed with us exposed under the sweltering heat of the sun.
Bear Gulch Reservoir! Swim, relax, and photograph the beautiful rock formations. We didn’t stop to swim this time, though.
After being fired up from our journey through the cave, we proceeded on the Rim Trail, High Peaks Trail, part of the Condor Trail, and then looped back. (Something like that) Here we were, enjoying the beautiful forest green leaves and slabs of rock structures that somewhat reminded me of Bryce’s hoodoos.
We walked under stone arches, too. It was quite a strenuous hike, but the scenery was completely worth every step.
We were granted with breathtaking views of stone hedges protruding from the sides of the mountain.
If you have the guts, there are some large boulders you could monkey up. I had a difficult time coming down after going up, as per usual. Luckily, neither Mark nor I face planted into the rocky ground.
Some of the rocks resembled dinosaur heads. Do ya see it? Do ya? Do ya? I kept thinking that it would come alive and chase me.
We had such a blast hiking further uphill and clinging onto a metal railing to prevent us from falling to our deaths. Burning thigh muscles, out of breath, and exposed to the heat made this section difficult, but extremely exciting at the same time.
So many green and blue hues near the end of our trail!
Cross some bridges, walk alongside the face of the mountain, and try to spot some condors while you’re at it.
And when you’ve completed the trail, take some time to smell the flowers…or just photograph them. I wouldn’t stick my nose in this plant if I were you.
Pinnacles National Park was a wonderful way to end our trip. We didn’t think we had it in us to hike up over 1,000 feet of elevation and over 5 miles that day, but we did it!
We drove home safe and sound, sweaty, dusty, exhausted, and extremely excited to share our adventures with our families. I would’ve captured more photos and documented the trails better, but unfortunately, by the time we reached our final destination, we were both tired of stopping and taking dozens of photos while on the trail. We also hadn’t preplanned this park as well as the others. All that was on my itinerary for that day was getting through a cave and making it home in one piece. Mission accomplished!
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you ever get the chance, I hope that I’ve convinced you to visit Pinnacles National Park. It’s one of California’s gems and well, enjoy it, respect it, take care of it, and share it with the world. It’s late, and I will hopefully be ready with my oatmeal post for you on Thursday. Until then, have a great night and fun Wednesday tomorrow. Stay happy and healthy!
Note: If you want some more guidance on what trails to take at Pinnacles, visit The Modern Hiker. The site has detailed descriptions of various trails.