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Explore Pinnacles National Monument and Nearby California Campgrounds

Pinnacles National Monument is the remarkable site of an ancient and extinct volcano that erupted 23 million years ago and 195 miles to the northwest. Set along the San Andreas Fault, Pacific Plate movement over millions of years brought the monument to its current location about 40 miles from the Pacific and 80 miles south of San Francisco.

The monument is filled with pinnacles, talus caves, diverse wildlife, and is a terrific destination for rock climbers. The monument was established in 1908 and protects the precious pinnacles, giving it its name. With everything that the Monument has to offer, it is an excellent California camping destination.

To find Woodall’s approved California campgrounds near the park, search through these California campgrounds.

This Monument is most popular during the spring and fall months. Intense summer heat makes the park uncomfortable, and even dangerous, to the unprepared. If you plan to visit the park during July or August, be aware that temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the afternoon. Cool mornings quickly turn into blistering afternoons. Carry and drink plenty of water, wear light and loose-fitting clothes, and try to keep activities short. Morning and evening hikes and rock climbing can be pleasant, and night hikes by the light of the full moon are also enjoyable.

Spring is one of the most popular times to visit the park because the weather is pleasant and the Monument is filled with wild flowers. The peak blooming season is March through May, although flowers can begin to bloom as early as January and can last well into June, depending on rain fall. Temperatures range from lows in the 30's to highs in the 70's, so be prepared for any weather. Fall tends to be moderate. Winter temperatures can drop below freezing, and most of the annual rain falls between January and March. Although coastal temperatures remain fairly constant, the Monument is greatly affected by the Santa Lucia Mountains to the west, which leads to hotter summers and colder winters.

Pinnacles National Monument charges an entrance fee of only $5. Annuals passes cost $15. The annual inter-agency pass which gets you into most national parks is $80.

Pinnacles National Monument has a lot to offer people of all activities. There are excellent hikes that range from easy to very strenuous. There are over 30 miles of trails, and many of them intersect. You can take a nice, short hike on a couple short trails or stretch it out over a day. One of the main attractions of the park is rock climbing, and there are areas that are great for beginners, and areas that are much more of a challenge for experienced climbers. Keep in mind that the rock in the Monument is considered weak, so any climb can be a challenge. If you’re new to climbing here, take some time to adjust to the feel of the rock before engaging in a more difficult climb. One popular climbing area is Tourists Trap, which is on the Bear Gulch Side. Discovery Wall is also very popular, and both are easy to get to.

If rock climbing is not your thing, the talus caves are another unique wonder to explore. Bear Gulch Cave is home to the largest maternal colony of Townsend’s Big-eared Bats, and thus is closed to protect the colony from mid May through mid July while the bats are raising their young. It is usually open mid-July though mid-May. But again, it is subject to the needs of the bats that call this cave home. Balconies Cave is open year round, although it is subject to closure due to storms and high water. The caves are beautiful and unique, and are definitely worth a trip to see.

Pinnacles National Monument is also home to a diverse amount of wildlife, including the California Condor. These beautiful birds have a wing span of up to 10 feet and can even be mistaken for a small aircraft. The Monument also has the largest variety of bees per area with over 400 species! Overall, Pinnacles National Monument is a wonderful California camping destination with plenty to see and plenty to do.

To locate a Woodall’s approved California campground, visit California campgrounds.

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