Pinnacles National Monument

Pinnacles National Monument
Pinnacles National Monument is a
sanctuary for people and birds of prey.

The russet spires and crags of Pinnacles National Monument, south of the San Francisco Bay area, provide an ideal sanctuary, both for people and birds of prey. Raptors are drawn to the tall rocks to nest and raise their young; people come to hike the chaparral country, climb sheer rock walls, and explore caves. The Pinnacles, which pierce the sky like a collection of spears, are the remains of an ancient volcano that was sculpted by wind, water, and frost. The rest of the volcano has been carried almost 200 miles south by movement along the San Andreas Fault.

The more than 26,000-acre monument has two separate entrances, Bear Gulch on the east and Chaparral on the west. No roads link the two, but more than 30 miles of hiking trails do. The easy Bear Gulch Caves trek provides views of rock climbers and birds and the opportunity to explore murky caves. Moses Spring Trail climbs steeply through oak and buckeye, and High Peaks Trail has good views of the area's contrasting geology.

To the north visitors can see the jagged, volcanic Balconies Cliffs. To the far southwest is the smoothly rounded Gabilan Range, a more typical formation for this area. The Pinnacles are alive with plant and animal life year-round, but especially in the spring, when colorful wildflowers cover the green hills.

Pinnacles National Monument Information

Address: 5000 Highway 146, Paicines, CA
Hours of Operation: 24 hours a day, year-round; visitor center hours vary
Admission: $5 per vehicle, walk-in $3

Learn about these other national monuments:

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Alibates Flint Quarries National MonumentDevils Postpile National Monument George Washington Carver National MonumentOcmulgee National MonumentSunset Crater Volcano National Monument
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Buck Island Reef National MonumentEl Malpais National MonumentHohokam Pima National MonumentPetroglyph National MonumentTuzigoot National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument El Morro National MonumentHomestead National MonumentPinnacles National MonumentWalnut Canyon National Monument
Capulin Volcano National MonumentFlorissant Fossil Beds National MonumentHovenweep National MonumentPipe Spring National MonumentWupatki National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National MonumentFort Frederica National MonumentJewel Cave National MonumentPipestone National Monument
Castle Clinton National MonumentFort Matanzas National MonumentJohn Day Fossil Beds National MonumentPoverty Point National Monument
Cedar Breaks National MonumentFort Stanwix National MonumentLava Beds National MonumentRainbow Bridge National Monument
Chiricahua National MonumentFossil Butte National MonumentMontezuma Castle National MonumentRussell Cave National Monument

To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:


Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.