HALF MOON BAY, Ca., December 26, 2011 — Established as a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, Pinnacles is beloved by hikers, campers and rock climbers. It’s also a release site for the endangered California condor, and visitors can often see any of the 30 free-flying condors while out on the trails of the park.
The towering spires and ramparts of Pinnacles National Monument seem surreal, as if they fell from an imaginary world onto to these rolling chaparral-covered hills. Instead, they’re the remains of a slowly moving volcano.
The Miocene-era Neenach Volcano, which originated 195 miles to the southeast, straddles the San Andreas Fault. Every time the Pacific Plate crept north, it pulled part of the volcano along on its journey. Adding to the geologic forces, erosion helped create the eerie-looking monoliths and crags of Pinnacles National Monument.
The park’s west entrance is 14 miles from the town of Soledad in Monterey County, Calif. A view of the striking stone faces begins well before you reach the Pinnacles gate. The west side offers spectacular views of the rock formation even from your car window in the parking lot.
For hiking, choose between the steep Juniper Canyon Loop (which runs through the spires of the High Peaks Trail, home to a handful of California condors) and the rolling Balconies Cave Trail (which leads to one of the park’s two talus caves). Adventure seekers can easily cover both in a day.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill and her husband are avid kayakers and own Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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