OverviewCommonly called the Pinnacles, these rocks are eroded remnants of an ancient volcano, featuring hundreds of rounded spires with grainy surfaces. On these rocks are tons of short technical rock climbing routes (single to a few pitches) popular for sport climbing, on weak, brittle volcanic breccia.
The Pinnacles are located in Gabilan Range, the middle of the three parallel Coast Ranges along the Pacific Coast south of San Francisco. The area is protected as the Pinnacles National Park. San Andreas Fault, the major source of California earthquakes, is located a few miles to the east along San Benito Valley.
Climbing areas in Pinnacles National Park are primarily in the following locations: Bear Gulch, High Peaks, the Balconies, the Fingers, Machete Ridge. Additionally Bear Gulch and the Balconies areas contain caves (see comment by keema). Located in the High Peaks area is also the high point of the Pinnacles: Hawkins Peak, also known as "Tuff Dome".
More than just a rock climbing park, the Pinnacles is a favorite hangout for raptors, cliff-nesting birds and other wildlife. The rocks offer endless hidden nooks for scrambling and exploration. They remind me of fairytale landscapes full of wonder and surprises. One of the amazing places is the steep, sometimes 1 foot wide High Peaks trail built on the edge of cliffs with footsteps chiseled into solid rock.
Getting TherePinnacles National Park has two entrances: east (Bear Gulch) and west (Chaparral). There is no road connecting the two. The east entrance leads to most visitor facilities. The Pinnacles are about 2.5 hours south of San Francisco.
Directions to East Entrance: Take Hwy 25 southbound off US-101 highway to a few miles south of Paicines, turn right (west) on Bear Valley Road. Proceed to the end.
If you come from southern California, take US-101 to King City, then take Bitterwater Road towards northeast for 17 miles until it joins Hwy 25. Turn left (north), then after a few miles turn left again (west) on Bear Valley Road.
It is also possible to take Interstate 5 from southern California to Coalinga, then take back roads for about 60 miles to connect to Hwy 25. Proceed further north to Bear Valley Road.
Directions to West Entrance: Take US-101 highway to Soledad, then take Metz road south for a few miles, turn left (east) on Shirttail Canyon Road and proceed to the end.
Red TapeThere is a $5 parking fee good for 7 days.
East side entrance is open 24 hours a day. West side entrance is open daily 7:30am - 6pm in winter and 7:30am - 8pm in summer. No sleeping (camping or in car) is allowed anywhere within the National Park but overnight hiking is permitted. If you drive in from the west side, your car will not be ticketed if you return after gate closure.
Some rocks are banned from climbing during the nesting season of raptors (January to July). There are also other regulations regarding use of bolts, chalk, webbing color, etc. Find all regulations at the official website.
When To ClimbSpring and Fall are best times to visit the Pinnacles. Summers are extremely hot, with day time high temperature of up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius). Winter rains may loosens the climbing holds.
CampingThere is a campground right outside the east entrance run by the National Park Service. Commercial lodging can be found at nearby towns such as Hollister, Salinas, or King City.
Mountain ConditionsFind out the current weather at the NOAA Weather Station located here , fairly close to Bear Gulch Visitor Center (link contributed by mpbro).
- Clint Cummins's page
An exhaustive, lovingly-maintained Pinnacles climbing site.
- NPS Raptor closure page
Excellent page with closure areas illustrated by hand-drawn maps. The specific rocks declared off-limits changes from year to year and within a given year, depending on the nesting situation. For the most recent updates, check the ranger station or the notices posted at the trailhead.
- Morgan & Kim's May, 2002 Pinnacles climbing trip
- Pinnacles Campground
Your only camping option within close range of the eastern entrance. $7/night, reservations taken.
- Friends of Pinnacles
Excellent website, overlapping both Cummins' and the NPS' pages in breadth. Useful to check here for redundancy in climbing beta/red tape updates.
- A cross-country scramble - Mar 17, 2001
- Pinnacles National Park
The home page for the Park
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