Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is an American national park protecting a mountainous area located east of the Salinas Valley in Central California, about five miles east of Soledad and 80 miles southeast of San Jose. The park’s namesakes are the eroded leftovers of the western half of an extinct volcano that has moved 200 miles from its original location on the San Andreas Fault, embedded in a portion of the California Pacific Coast Ranges. Pinnacles is managed by the National Park Service and the majority of the park is protected as wilderness.

The national park is divided by the rock formations into East and West Divisions, connected only by foot trails. The east side has shade and water, the west has high walls. The rock formations provide for spectacular pinnacles that attract rock climbers. The park features unusual talus caves that house at least 13 species of bats. Pinnacles is most often visited in spring or fall because of the intense heat during the summer. Park lands are prime habitat for prairie falcons, and are a release site for California condors that have been hatched in captivity.

On the eastern side of the park, we did a hike up Moses Spring Trail to the Reservoir and back down by the Rim Trail loop (2.5 miles round trip, 524 feet elevation change.

The rocks were peculiar along this route. They looked like mudstone with chucks of rocks in them. They are rhyolite and were formed when explosive pyroclastics (think Mt. St Helens or Pompeii) ripped rocks out of the volcano. When the ash cooled, the rocks were embedded by being cemented in the ash.

Geology of Pinnacles National Park


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