PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK
Home page
Park Description:
Pinnacles is a 26000 acre park located about 70 miles below San Jose California on Hwy 25. Formed originally from volcanic rock 200 miles to the south, it is now a popular place for rock climbers and hikers. It features two caves and several species of bats as well as being a release site for the California Condor.

The park has a western and eastern side with no roads connecting the two. The eastern side is accessible from Hwy 101 near Soledad and the eastern side from Hollister via Hwy 25. There is a campground on the eastern side. The climate is Mediterranean, but since it's 50 miles inland, it gets hotter in summer, so the best seasons to visit are fall through spring. While the Chaparral landscape is dominant, it is interspersed with Oak Woodlands and Riparian areas complete with lush ferns and mosses.

There are about 30 miles of trails in the park. These range from the High Peaks Trail with scenic vistas, to two cave trails winding among car to house size boulders.
 

Hike Location: here

Park information: here
Park maps: here

Cost: $30/week   

Plant Index: here

Home Page: here

Hikes at this location: This is our first one. More coming.
 

 
 Most of  photos taken were in the spring of 2020. It was a pivotal time as the Covid 19 lockdown was in effect for most of the Bay Area, but thankfully our county was still open as was  Pinnacles. It would have been had it not been under the control of Federal Government as a National Park. What we did see the two times we were there were well spaced campers and respectful hikers keeping their distance. What really helped was limited access. We don't understand why other California parks couldn't have been operated this way and kept open.

For a complete list of plants seen on this hike, go to bottom of page or click here.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chaparral Clematis (Clematis lasianta): This native Clematis can grow up 20' into trees. It likes itís roots in the shade but itís leaves & flowers in the sunójust like the ornamental varieties.

 


A view from the High Peaks Trail looking east over the park. The trail not only traverses amazing geology and flora, but views can be had of both sides of the park, and if  lucky, a number of raptors as well as California Condors.

 

 
The trail heading up to the High Peaks Trail from the east side of the park.
 
Another shot of the High Peaks trail as it descends back to the valley on the eastern side.


Close up of Common Fiddle neck (Amsinckia intermedia).  This native likes grassy hillsides & open spots. It also is a frequent bloomer in fire ravaged areas.
 
Blue Witch (Solanum umbelliferum) is a native bush that can get about 5 feet tall. It can flower much of the year if the conditions are right.

 


The eastern side has close access to Balconies Cave. Not only is the trail to the caves through scenic chaparral, but you get almost a slot canyon experience on the way.  Parking is limited so come early on weekends.
 

 

 
Above: The Blue Eyed Mary (Collinsia sparsiflora):
We found several hillsides of these annual natives.

Left: Prairie Star (Lithophragma parviflorum): A native perennial which is only about 12" tall at maximum. It likes to live in grassy or sagebrush lands.

 


Above you have the Woolly Paintbrush (Castilleja foliolosa) It's a parasitic or semi parasitic native shrub. It will grow up to 3' tall & parasitizes several bushes like Chamise or Sagebrush.

The eastern side of the park is accessed from Hwy 25. For a reasonably strong hiker, all the features of the park are available from either end. But the High Peaks Trail and Bear Gulch Cave Trail are closer here.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Climbing out of Bear Gulch towards the reservoir.

 

 

Above:
The native blue Fiesta Flower (Pholistoma auritum) is a relative to Forget-Me-Not flowers.

Left: Our native Coast Range Triteleia (Triteleia lugens) grows from a corm (bulb) & is considered slightly endangered by the CNPS.

 


The east side also has a very nice campground catering to RV's as well as tents. Water and electrical is also available.

Right: The showy native Western Thistle (Cirsium occidentale) grew to almost 3 feet.

 

 

 
Above: These strange tiny flowers are the blooms of the Woolly Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon tomentosum). It is a handsome pubescent native shrub which grows in hot sunny areas at Pinnacles.

Left: The native Scarlet Penstemon (Penstemon centranthifolius) grew about 2' tall among the pines & oaks. This was difficult to take as the camera keeps focusing on the background.

 


Pinnacles, while being mostly Chaparral does have a few riparian hikes. This is the South Wilderness Trail not too far from the campground.

On the right is a strange little native, the California Goose foot (Chenopodium californicum). It's a relative to beets and Swiss Chard.

 

 

Pinnacles is a very unique park with unusual geology, flora and fauna. Plus it's only about an hour from the southern Bay area. It's one of our favorite that we have been coming to it for years. We think it's one you will enjoy.

 

Blooming Plants Not Photographed: NN=Non Native
Achillea millifolium (Yarrow)
Amsinckia menziesii (Small Flowered Fiddle neck)
Amsinckia tessellata (Devilís Lettuce)
Baccharis pilularis (Coyote Bush)
Baccharis salicifolia (Mule Fat)
Calystegia occidentalis (Western Morning Glory)
Carduus pycnocephalus (Italian Thistle) NN
Chaenactis glabriuscula (Yellow Pincushion Flower)
Cirsium occidentale (Western Thistle)
Clarkia unguiculata (Elegant Clarkia)
Clarkia purpurea (Wine Cup Clarkia)
Claytonia parviflora (Minerís Lettuce)
Collinsia heterophylla (Chinese houses)
Delphinium parryi (Parryís Larkspur)
Cryptantha ssp. (Cryptantha)
Dendromecon rigida (Bush Poppy)
Dichelostemma capitatum (Blue Dicks)
Dichelostemma congestum (Ookow)
Diplacus aurantiacus (Sticky Monkey Flower)
Erodium botrys (Big Heron Bill) NN
Erodium cicutarium (Red stemmed filaree) NN
Erythranthe guttata (Seep Monkey Flower)
Galium aparine (Bed straw)
Hypochaeris glabra (Smooth Catís Ear) NN
Lasthenia californica (Goldfields)
Lathyrus vestitus (Hillside Pea)
Logfia gallica (Cotton rose) NN
Lupinus bicolor (Miniature Lupine)
Lupinus microcarpus (Chick Lupine)
Madia gracilis (Slender Tarweed)
Marah fabacea (Wild Cucumber)
Matricaria discoidea (Pineapple Weed)
Melilotus indicus (Sweet Yellow Clover) NN
Micropus californicus (Q-Tip Plant)
Nasturtium officinale (Watercress)
Phacelia distans (Common Phacelia)
Plagiobothrys ssp. (Popcorn Flower)
Plectritis macrocera (White Plectritis)
Quercus wislizeni (Interior Live Oak)
Salix lasiolepis (Arroyo Willow)
Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea (Blue Elderberry)
Sanicula crassicaulis (Snake Plant)
Senecio vulgaris (Common Groundsel) NN
Stachys bullata (Ca. Hedge Nettle)
Spergularia rubra (Purple Sand Spurry) NN
Thysanocarpus curvipes (Lace Pod)
Toxicodendron diversilobum (Poison Oak)
Urtica urens (Small Nettle) NN
Vicia villosa (Hairy Vetch) NN
Vinca major (Vinca) NN
Viola pedunculata (Johnny Jump Up)
Wyethia helenioides (Grey Mules Ears)




Ferns:

Dryopteris arguta (Wood Fern)
Pellaea andromedifolia (Coffee Fern)
Pellaea mucronata (Birdís Foot Fern)
Pentagramma triangularis (Gold Back Fern)
Woodwardia fimbriata (Giant Chain Fern)