Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pinnacles National Monument: Dreams, Spring, and Condors

It is spring. At Pinnacles National Monument, the flowers are, no doubt, in full bloom, and I can't help reviewing old photos of an expired spring and dreaming of someday living free with nature. Someday, I hope to be able to take my pen and paper and my camera and use them to splash drab museum walls and urban apartments--a few drops of purple, a rivulet of green . . .Guide
Pinnacles National Monument is a great place to spend a day. It's fairly small, and if you're in half decent shape, you can easily get around the monument in a day. I recommend starting at the end of Bear Gulch and hiking through Bear Gulch Cave to Bear Gulch Reservoir. The cave is long, steep and often has a creek cascading through it, so be forewarned. Also, YOU WILL NEED A FLASHLIGHT. The cave was formed from boulders caving in and creating cavities, so don't expect to see any speleotherms.
Once at Bear Gulch Reservoir, take the High Peaks Trail to get in among the rock pinnacles. This trail involves a little scrambling over rocks, and--if you enjoy bouldering--offers opportunities for quite a lot of scrambling up and around rocks. Hiking along the ridge offers some wonderful views of the peculiar landscape. After traversing the ridge, take the Condor Gulch Trail back down to the visitor center. The Condor Gulch Trail descends easily along a ravine. The hillside--particularly as the trail nears the visitor center--is a prime location for wildflowers. Just don't expect to see any California Condors. See a map of the trails at Pinnacles National Monument.
California Condors
Pinnacles National Monument plays an important role in the Condor Recovery Program. California Condors are extremely endangered. In 1985 there was only one breeding pair of condors. Since that time, the Condor Recovery Program has managed to reintroduce California Condors into the wild. 13 of the Condors fly in or around Pinnacles. Stop by the visitor center to learn more about this huge bird.
  • For trail and camping info, maps, conditions, and general info visit the National Park Service site.
  • Pinnacles National Monument is located a couple hours south of San Francisco. Trail and area maps can be found here.
  • For a collection of 3D photos and information about the area's geology visit this USGS site.
California Condor Information:
  • Read about the Condor Recovery Program in this short article.
  • For information on Condors at Pinnacles take a look at this page.
  • Stop by the California Condor Conservation website for all the news on Condors.
  • The Zoological Society of San Diego was charged with saving the California Condor through a CRES breeding program. If you're ever in San Diego county you can see a California Condor at Condor Ridge in the San Diego Wild Animal Park.


  1. Enjoyed looking through your site, which I found through MatadorTrips - you're a talented photographer and I hope you consider joining MatadorTravel.com and pitching me travel guides (I'm an editor).


  2. More beautiful shots! Thanks for sharing. I can't wait until it's flower season in my part of the world (we're still cross-country skiing in some areas!).

    I'll add you to my blogroll.... ;-)