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6 Top Pinnacles National Park Boondocking Locations

Pinnacles National Park
When I visited the Central West Coast, I really had no idea which awesome places to go sightseeing, but a friend recommended visiting Pinnacles National Park. The place is a must visit for anyone visiting the West Coast because it has so many different things to see and do. Pinnacle’s National Park is home to some of the best hiking trails in California and offers spectacular views of the ocean, mountains, and valleys. The Park also features many exciting sites such as Balconies Cave and Bear Gulch Cave that are great places to explore.

Pinnacle’s had so much to offer, including fantastic hiking trails, I had to stay longer than expected to see all of nature’s most beautiful scenery! Many different types of wildlife live in Pinnacles National Park, including birds, deer, raccoons, and coyotes. This article will give you all you will need to know about visiting Pinnacles National Park the next time you’re in California.

Pinnacles National Park Landscape

History of Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park has made had a large impact on local history, and while there, I got to learn a lot. It was originally a volcano, and the Pinnacle’s lava field is over five miles wide; this is a must-see site. I also learned that the Park had been home to Native American tribes for centuries after being formed from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. Pinnacles Volcano erupted 26 million years ago, creating one of the largest volcanic fields in North America!

This eruption lasted 300 days at its peak, leaving behind rocky spires known as Pinnacles today, which are great places to hike around during your stay in Pinnacle’s National Park. I have discussed the history of Pinnacles National park because history will play an essential role in this article. The history of the place is the reason that led up to Pinnacles being named a national park on October 12th, 2013. That made it California’s second National Park, and it was established in the last fifty years! Pinnacles National Park is also 14 miles east of California’s other National Park, Yosemite.

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Things to Do and See at Pinnacle’s National Park

While at the Park, I got to be part of different activities, and the sites make it a must-visit. Pinnacles National Park is a great place to experience nature, and I would recommend it to others. If you’re looking for something fun and free to do, Pinnacle’s National Park is the perfect place to start. It has over 150 miles of trails that hikers use, cyclists and horseback riders so that everyone can enjoy it regardless of their physical ability or fitness level. Below are some of the things to do and see at the Park.

Pinnacles Campgrounds

Pinnacles National Park also has Pinnacles Campground, (Paid) so you can spend the night and enjoy all of the Park has to offer.
The Pinnacles Campgrounds was an excellent place for my family and me to spend the night. With over 100 campsites, Pinnacle’s National Park has something for everyone! The Pinnacles Campgrounds facility is open year-round, so if you want to get out of the city lights and relax under the stars or enjoy some stargazing. The place was a great way to unwind from the city noise and the stars; there is something else.

Balanced Rock Trailhead

If you love hiking as I do, then this is the place to start. The Balanced Rock Trailhead is a great place to have and hiking adventure. It has a short easy trail that runs along the Pinnacles River. That means people of all skill levels will be able to go on this hike. If you come to this place with your family, then I recommend this trial. It is an excellent place for you and your family to stretch your legs.

Balconies Cave

Another great that I got to visit at Pinnacle’s National Park is Balconies Cave. This cave is found on East High Peaks Trail and is a great place to stop and explore. Pinnacle’s National Park does close the cave from December-March so make sure you visit during those months!

Pinnacles Visitor Center

The Pinnacle’s National Park Visitor Center exhibits Pinnacles National Park’s history, geology, and wildlife. Pinnacle’s National Park Pavement project started in 2016 to improve accessibility for visitors with disabilities. If you have a family member that is disabled or you are disabled yourself, then I recommend this Park because you will not encounter any problems. The paved pathways are more accessible and suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.

The Pinnacles Visitors Center also has an Observation Deck with panoramic views of Pinnacle’s National Park, including Balconies Cave and Pinnacles Campgrounds. It also features interactive exhibits about Pinnacle’s National Park, Pinnacles’ geology, ecology, and cultural history, so it provides you with a little bit of education as well!

Balancing Rock

One of the staple features I had the chance to visit at Pinnacle’s National Park is the balancing rock. The place also acts as a popular photo opportunity for visitors to capture this impressive formation against scenic backdrops like the mountains and blue sky above it. It’s located right near one of many campgrounds within Pinnacles. That made it easy to spend a night or two right near the Pinnacles National Park, making the visit more enjoyable.

High Peaks Trail Head

As I said earlier, I love hiking, and so do my family. The highest peak in the Park is called the High Peaks, and we quickly climbed up and down with our bikes. The trailhead starts near one of many campgrounds within Pinnacles, so it’s easy for people camping inside Pinnacles National Park to get out and explore this beautiful area during their stay.

Pinnacles National Park Boondocking

6 Top Pinnacles National Park Boondocking Spots

1. Free Pinnacles National Park Boondocking – Laguna Mountain Recreation Area

Address
Coalinga Road
King City, California
GPS: 36.368169, -120.83103
Elevation: 2861′

Management: Public – Bureau of Land Management

The road in is Paved. Laguna Mountain Recreation Area is open all year. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay 14 days at Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. Five developed campsites on BLM 13.5 miles from Highway 25 on Coalinga Road. Any size rig,vault toilets, no water.

2. Free Pinnacles National Park Boondocking – Oak Flat

Address
Clear Creek Road
Paicines, California
GPS: 36.361532, -120.760709
Elevation: 2585′

Management: Public – Forest Service

Oak Flat is open all year. Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) encompasses approximately 63,000 acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management Central Coast Field Office. There are two developed campgrounds in the CCMA, Oak Flat and Jade Mill, both with picnic tables, shade structures, fire rings, and pit toilets. You will find great views of the Central Valley and the Sierras in some areas, and youll find yourself deep in the forest at others.

3. Free Pinnacles National Park Boondocking – Panoche Hills BLM

Address
Firebaugh, California
GPS: 36.699326, -120.802231
Elevation: 2137′

Management: Public – Bureau of Land Managment

The road in is Gravel and 5 miles from a paved road. Panoche Hills BLM is open October to April. You may stay 14 days at Panoche Hills BLM. There are pit toilets in the day use area about four miles from the gate at little panoche road. There are full hook up camp sites at mercey hot spring just a mile farther up little panoche road.

4. Free Pinnacles National Park Boondocking – Griswold Hills

Address
1415-1473 New Idria Road
Paicines, California
GPS: 36.56198, -120.835013
Elevation: 1283′

Management: Public – Bureau of Land Management

Free Dispersed camping in the Bureau of Land Management Hollister District. This campsite does not use a reservation systerm. First come, first served. There are no trash cans or dumpsters, so pack out what you pack in. The night skies here are very dark, as there are no cities around to muck things up with their dark pollution; so this is a good place for star gazing, with or without a telescope.

5. Free Pinnacles National Park Boondocking – Tumey Hills

Address
Panoche Road
Firebaugh, California
GPS: 36.62479, -120.65913
Elevation: 659′

Management: Public – Bureau of Land Management

Tumey Hills is open Oct-Apr. Free Dispersed camping in the Bureau of Land Management Hollister District. First come -> first camped. No reservations are accepted.

6. Free Pinnacles National Park Boondocking – Upper Sweetwater Recreation Area

Address
Coalinga Road
King City, California
GPS: 36.359753, -120.850045
Elevation: 2883′

Management: Public – Bureau of Land Management

The road in is Paved. Upper Sweetwater Recreation Area is open all year. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay 14 days at Upper Sweetwater Recreation Area. Six developed campsites on BLM with very easy back-in access for any size rig. Pads are level and some up to 60 feet long!



Favorite 10 Trails to Hike at Pinnacles National Park

I know I have said this several times, but I love the outdoors and more so love hiking. When I reached the Park, the first thing I asked about was whether they had hiking trails. It’s good that Pinnacles National Park features stunning rock formations that have been carved out by water over time, forming trails great for hiking and rock climbing. They make the place a unique spot where you will enjoy spectacular scenic views and historic trails to explore the Park’s past. Here are the top 10 Trails that I had the chance to hike and would recommend.

Pinnacles National Park Hiking #1. Condor Gulch Trail

I can rate this trail as moderate, which means you have to be moderately skilled to hike on it. It is two-mile-long and is said to have an elevation gain of 600 feet. The Condor Gulch Trail is a great way to explore Pinnacles National Park. This trail offers impressive views of Pinnacle formations, as well as the ability to see wildflowers and wildlife in springtime. The first portion of this hike includes steep switchbacks that can be challenging for some hikers, but beyond them lies a more moderate trail that leads to the Pinnacles Campground.

Length: 5.5 mi
Elevation gain: 1,630 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Running, Cave, Forest, Lake, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Rocky, Scramble, Fee, No dogs

Pinnacles National Park Hiking #2. Old Pinnacles Trail Loop

Pinnacles National Park

I was only allowed to take this trail through a guided tour. I can rate it as moderate as it has some very steep parts. To hike Old Pinnacles Trail Loop, you will need to reserve at Pinnacles National Park. This is because the trail can only be hiked with a guided tour that takes place twice daily. Tour guides take hikers up to Pinnacles peak to see the valley below and beyond into California’s Central Coast. The hike was worth it because the highest point on this loop is about 1800 feet above sea level, so it provides breathtaking scenery throughout the entire trip!

Length: 9.5 mi
Elevation gain: 1,732 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Rock climbing, Bird watching, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

Pinnacles National Park Hiking #3. Bear Gulch Trail

I liked this trial a lot because it was an easy one. I rate it as easy because it is a short hike through some of the most beautiful Pinnacles scenery. It’s pretty easy to walk, so hikers of all ages and abilities can enjoy it. The trail takes you along the entrance road before splitting off towards some stunning rock formations. Along this path are caves where visitors will find ancient pictographs left behind by Native Americans hundreds of years ago! These images depict animals and human figures, preserved in these unusual conditions for many generations now.

Length: 2.6 mi
Elevation gain: 314 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Forest, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

Pinnacles National Park Hiking #4. Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies

Pinnacles National Park

Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies is one of the best hikes I’ve ever taken! It is a moderate trail that takes about an hour and a half to hike up if you go at an average pace (about two hours or so). It’s not too strenuous of a hike, but there are some steep parts. Pinnacles Peak is located inside Pinnacles National Park in Pinnacle, California. Pinnacles are the perfect location for backpacking or camping. Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies goes up to Pinnacle Peak, which has a panoramic view of Pinnacles so that you can see all around!

Pinnacles National Park Hiking #5. North Wilderness to Old Pinnacle Trail & Balconies Cave

I can rate this trial as moderate. I consider it moderate because it requires some physical activity but nothing too strenuous, not only for adults but also children of all ages. North Wilderness to Old Pinnacle Trail & Balconies Cave consists of a wide path with rocks and smaller pebbles on the ground, great for hiking boots or sturdy sneakers. North Wilderness to Old Pinnacle Trail & Balconies Cave is a perfect hike for families and friends to enjoy together throughout the Pinnacles National Park!

Length: 9.5 mi
Elevation gain: 1,220 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Cave, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee, No dogs

Pinnacles National Park Hiking #6. Bear Gulch Loop Trail

Pinnacles National Park

Although I rate the Bear Gulch Loop Trail as hard, it is a must-visit. I think you’d have to go out of your way not to get lost in the maze of trails here. From short and sweet to weeklong backpacking trips, this Park has something for everyone and even more, if you’re into rock climbing! And don’t forget that they offer camping too. You’ll need all three days just to hit every trail before deciding on which one’s your favorite.

Length: 7.7 mi
Elevation gain: 1,942 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Bird watching, Cave, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Rocky, No shade, Fee, No dogs

Pinnacles National Park Hiking #7. High Peaks Trail Loop

I rate this trail as hard, and I sweated a lot on my way up. The trail is best known for its incredible views and unique rock formations, such as the famous High Peaks, which can be seen on this hike. I would recommend getting some information about weather conditions before going up this trail. This will help guide you in choosing what kind of clothing needs to be brought along with you because, during certain times of the year, temperatures could reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit! There’s nothing worse than being dehydrated or sunburnt during a hike.

Length: 5.5 mi
Elevation gain: 1,630 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Running, Cave, Forest, Lake, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Rocky, Scramble, Fee, No dogs

Pinnacles National Park Hiking #8. High Peaks Trail

Pinnacles National Park

I recommend the High Peaks Trail even though it is hard, because it offers a look into Pinnacles past in addition to its stunning natural features. It follows an old Native American trading route, dating back hundreds of years! This hike takes you along some interesting trails before ending up at Pinnacle peak itself – also called the “high point” where hikers can see amazing views from above.

Length: 6.4 mi
Elevation gain: 1,840 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Bird watching, Forest, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Muddy, Rocky, Scramble, Fee, No dogs

Pinnacles National Park Hiking #9. Balconies Cave Trail

This trail is rated as easy, and you can only take it with a tour guide. The Balconies Cave Trail is one of Pinnacles National Park’s most popular hiking trails, even though it’s only accessible with a guided tour. Visitors can climb right up into the cave through its entry point and explore this natural wonder that provides spectacular views! There are plenty of other Pinnacle hikes that you can enjoy as well, so be sure to come back here again if you love exploring Pinnacle Peak in California’s Central Coast region.

Length: 2.6 mi
Elevation gain: 400 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Cave, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Rocky, Scramble, Fee, No dogs

Pinnacles National Park Hiking #10. Pinnacle Overlook Trail

Pinnacles National Park

I visited Pinnacle Overlook Trail too. I opted for this trail because it’s an easy trail with several steep hills that will give you some great views along your journey. The Pinnacle Overlook Trail starts right into the forest where it follows Bear Gulch Creek through groves of towering pine trees before reaching Painted Rock Overlook just under half a mile in from the start point at its base parking lot North West side of Highway 146 (maps provided). There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the views of Pinnacles and surrounding mountains.

Pinnacles National park was one of the best places I ever visited in my whole life, and I would come back. If you are looking for a place for you and your family to go on vacation, I recommend this Park. It is excellent for people who love the outdoors and want to unwind from the noises of the city.

Length: 1.0 mi
Elevation gain: 78 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Walking, Views, Wildlife, Fee



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