I don’t think anyone could ever live in California and say there is nothing to do! It seems like no matter where you are at, there is a National Park treasure just a couple hours away! After we visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon, we drove a quick four hours to Pinnacles National Park!
It was late afternoon on a hot August weekend in southern California when we arrived to the park, so we took one of the last campsites they had available and cooled off at the pool. This is one of the first National Parks I’ve been to with a pool, and while it was nice, it kind of felt out of place. To be honest, with the sweaty heat, the kind of grimy pool conditions, and the clientele that was here… I was half expecting Frank Reynolds to pop out with a greased up watermelon to throw around in the pool.
When the sun was finally not toasting everything, Mike and I decided to walk to Bear Gulch from the campground which is where the cool Cave Trail is supposed to be. However, after 5 or 10 minutes down the road, we realized that it was almost two miles just to the trail head…. which most people drive to. We both couldn’t read a map and realized then that we may have been a bit dehydrated/delirious. If Mike can’t read a map, you know we’re in trouble! So we headed back to the campsite and called it an early night.
It turned out, that worked out much better for us. To avoid the heat, we ended up waking up before sunrise to head over to the Condor Gulch Trail for a beautiful five mile sunrise hike. At the trailhead, we decided to start to the left and hike counterclockwise, which allowed us to end at the Bear Gulch Cave Trail. The hike started off with a nice calf burner straight up to some pretty incredible rock formations. Along the hike we also got to see the endangered California Condors! This park is home to a research release site for this threatened species, and is a large part in why this area became a National Park.
The Bear Gulch Trail was a good way to end the hot hike. It’s not your typical cave; it’s a talus cave which is formed by boulders creating a roof over narrow canyons. However, it still is kept nice and cool and is located by a reservoir as well, so it felt incredible after hiking in the heat. It was a fun exploratory area and I could see it being a great place to let children explore without worrying as it’s not too big and still has some natural light.
Mike and I had a lot of fun on this hike. We were one of two cars in the parking lot when we started, and they went the opposite direction than we did. We really didn’t see anyone else until we were almost done and people were just starting, so it was incredibly peaceful. We were able to skeedaddle from the park before it got too busy, and in triple digit temps!
- This park is split into two sides; East and West. There is no road connection between the two – so unless you plan on hiking a connecting trail, you’ll most likely only see the East Side. It’s an hour drive to get to the other side, and it seems like a park that people add into a vacation, rather than plan around this park.
- Reserve that campsite! There are not a lot of options close by. We really lucked out and the Ranger basically opened up an area for us since she saw we were just going to camp in our truck.
- With that, unless you want to spend a lot of money at their commissary, make sure to pack plenty of food, water and sunscreen!
- While I very much enjoyed myself and this park, it surprised me. It didn’t seem to really be at the caliber that I expect most National Parks. It’s very small and reminds me a lot more of a state park. However, if you’re looking for a place to chill for a few days and slowly explore with the family, this is a great place!
Not related to the park, but before our hike, I had just read an awesome blog about women hiking/running in sports bras and the hesitation many women have doing so, despite men of all shapes and sizes usually feeling no shame in taking their shirts off when it’s hot. I decided to take myself out of my comfort zone with this and tried it out… it was so liberating! And SO much more comfortable and cooler. Highly recommend… ladies, it can be hard to remember this, but no one cares. And those that are judging you…. are usually assholes whose opinion shouldn’t matter anyway.