The protected area within Pinnacles National Park is completely different than the surrounding terrain with very distinct boundaries. About 23 million years ago, shifting and subduction of tectonic plates spawned volcanic activity and collision of plates created the San Andreas Fault. The volcanoes were not at the site of Pinnacles NP today, but 195 miles to the southeast. As plates continued to shift, the Pacific Plate carried 2/3 of the volcanic field north with it! Erosion from wind, rain and ice over the years has revealed the beauty we see at Pinnacles today. Massive monoliths, boulder covered (talus) caves, and sheer canyon walls dominate the landscape.
The best way to explore the park is by foot, as there are only a couple paved roads in the park. We hiked twice, navigating through talus caves, up and down staircases carved in the giant stone formations, and along high peaks and dry creeks.
Bear Gulch Cave Trail>High Peaks Trail>Condor Gulch Trail
Old Pinnacles Trail>Balconies Cave Trail>Balconies Cliff Trails>Old Pinnacles
We always enjoy spotting interesting wildlife in their natural environment. We saw a group of about a dozen wild turkeys, a bat flying out of one of the caves, solo tarantulas on 2 different trails (it's tarantula mating season!), and dozens of black tailed deer. The most interesting sighting though, was the California Condor. These huge birds made it onto the endangered species list in the late 60s and Pinnacles is one of the few sites for captive breeding releases. The wingspan on these guys is 9.5 feet! They fly pretty high so our pictures are Sasquatch quality, but we were able to enjoy watching them with binoculars.