Pinnacles National ParkCalifornia 

A mountainous area once home to multiple erupting volcanoes.

Named for an extinct volcano that has moved from the San Andreas Vault, the park has an interesting geological history, frequent seismic activity and diverse wildlife call it home. The park was designated a national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. President Obama signed the legislation designating it a national park in early 2013, the ninth in the state of California.

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Pinnacles Forest Reserve was created in 1906 one year after the U.S. Forest Service was established. It became Pinnacles National Monument in 1908 when it was designated by President Theodore Roosevelt under the Antiquities Act. The proclamation by President Theodore Roosevelt said that “the natural formations, known as the Pinnacles Rocks, with a series of caves underlying them, which are situated upon public lands, within the Pinnacles National Forest, in the State of California, are of scientific interest, and it appears that the public interests would be promoted by reserving these formations and caves as a National Monument, with as much land as may be necessary for the proper protection thereof ….”

Pinnacles National Monument was enlarged in 1923 by President Warren G. Harding, in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge and in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover. More land acquisitions happened over the years until Pinnacles National Park was established in 2013.

The Pinnacles National Park Act gave the following reasons for the establishment of the park:

(1) preserving and interpreting for the benefit of future generations the chaparral, grasslands, blue oak woodlands, and majestic valley oak savanna ecosystems of the area, the area’s geomorphology, riparian watersheds, unique flora and fauna, and the ancestral and cultural history of native Americans, settlers and explorers; and

(2) interpreting the recovery program for the California Condor and the international significance of the program.

Congress also found:

“While the extraordinary geology of Pinnacles National Monument has attracted and enthralled visitors for well over a century, the expanded Monument now serves a critical role in protecting other important natural and cultural resources and ecological processes.”

“Pinnacles National Monument provides the best remaining refuge for floral and fauna species representative of the central California coast and Pacific coast range ….”

It “encompasses a unique blend of California heritage from prehistoric and historic Native Americans to the arrival of the Spanish, followed by 18th and 19th century settlers, including miners, cowboys, vaqueros, ranchers, farmers, and homesteaders.”

“Pinnacles National Monument is the only National Park System site within the ancestral home range of the California Condor.”

What is Pinnacles known for?

Pinnacles is known for the rock formations which divide the park, its California condors and spring wildflowers.

Can you drive through Pinnacles National Park?

The east and west entrance allow visitors to drive into Pinnacles National Park but you cannot drive across it. There is a 3-5 mile gap between the road from the East Entrance and Chaparral Trailhead Parking. It is about an hour to drive around between the east and west entrances.

Are there bears in Pinnacles National Park?

No – it is not bear country. There are mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats and many other animals, but no bears. Black bear can be found throughout California but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife does not put Pinnacles in its normal American Black Bear range.

How far is Pinnacles National Park from Los Angeles?

Pinnacles is located about five hours from Los Angeles. The East Entrance is a few miles closer than the West Entrance. The east entrance is 269 miles away from downtown LA. The most direct route utilizes I-5, unless you are near Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is about 200 miles from the West Entrance and is a 3.5 hour drive.

Does it snow in Pinnacles National Park?

Pinnacles has a Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers, with mild winters. Temperatures during winter do drop below freezing at night and snow can happen at higher elevations in December and January.

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