Pinnacles National Park

A cool experience with 6 to 10 mile hikes
Driving to and sleeping at a campground
Ideal for first-timers
Places we've visited and fallen in love with

Spelunking through ancient talus caves at Pinnacles National Park

Spelunking through ancient talus caves at Pinnacles National Park

Spelunking through ancient talus caves at Pinnacles National Park

Spelunking through ancient talus caves at Pinnacles National Park

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Last updated
March 8, 2022

Trip · 3-day camping trip

For · Friends and new campers

Vibe · Relaxing and chill

Reservations · Yes, reserve a spot at Pinnacles Campground

Drive · 2.5 hours from SF

Ideal dates · March to May or September to October

Pets · Welcome at camp, but not on trails

Pinnacles National Park (PNP) is the newest national park in California, but its infamous rock formations are more than 23 million years old! What's left from volcanic activity has become a popular destination for rock climbers, cave divers, and campers. The park only has 30 miles of trails so backpacking isn't allowed, but come for the otherworldly rocks and stay for the spectacular stargazing.  

Official National Park Website

Current Park and Trail Conditions

Directions to Campground

Main image credit: Gregory Gnesio

Stuff to know

  • Buy a 7-day vehicle entrance fee for $30 online before your trip
  • Pack sunscreen and a jacket because temperatures drastically change from morning to night
  • There isn't a way to drive across the park so plan accordingly! (Pinnacles Campground is located on the eastern side of the park)
  • Bear Gulch and Balconies Caves are home to colonies of big-eared bats, and open to the public for certain parts of the year. Check the schedule.
  • Wear face masks, socially distance, and recreate responsibly!

Resources

Check the weather
Pinnacles Campground

Where to camp

Pinnacles Campground

Each campsite comes with a:

  • Picnic table
  • Fire pit
  • Space for up to six people
  • Two parking spots
  • Food storage locker
  • Trash collection (on site)

Pinnacles Campground is the only place to camp within the park, but it has everything. Nestled among oak trees on the eastern side of the park, this comfy campground has tent, RV, group campsites and tent cabins available. There are restrooms, drinking water, hot showers (for a fee), a general store (for ice and firewood), and a swimming pool (open from April to September) on site. You can reserve a spot up to six months ahead so be sure to swoop one while they're still available!

​Check-in: After 1 PM · Check-out: 11 AM

Quiet hours: 10 PM to 6 AM

Pinnacles Campground Map

Nightly Fee: $49

Pinnacles Campground
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Itinerary

Day One

Hue Restaurant in San Jose, CA. Credit: Yelp

Leave SF by 11 AM and grab some Vietnamese food at Hue Restaurant

  • Diners love their authentic Banh Beos, steamed rice cakes
  • Located at 3005 Silver Creek Road, Suite. 190 in San Jose
  • Open everyday · 11 AM to 8 PM · 10 AM to 9 PM on weekends
  • Last pit stop · Safeway Fuel Station - 591 Tres Pinos Road in Hollister

Check in and settle in at Pinnacles Campground

  • Set up camp, wander around the campground and relax

Or if you're feeling ambitious, hike Bench Trail for a glimpse of the Pinnacles

  • This is a moderate 4.8 mile round-trip hike from Pinnacles Campground
  • Pack plenty of water and snacks for this trek
  • On weekends and later parts of the day, this trail can get pretty crowded

Return to camp for a sunset dinner

  • Prep dinner, s'mores, and enjoy an evening of drinking and stargazing
Pinnacles National Park has been a national monument since 1908, but President Obama re-designated it as a national park in 2013.

Day Two

High Peaks Trail Loop. Credit: All Trails

Get a sunrise start, grab brekkie, and prep for a day hike along High Peaks Trail Loop

  • Aim to get to the parking lot by 7:30 AM because spots fill up fast, plus temperatures will be cooler to hike in during the morning
  • Pack a daypack with snacks, sunscreen, sunhat, jacket, and plenty of water
  • This is a strenuous 5.5 round-trip hike with 1,630 ft. of elevation gain. There isn't a lot of shade for the first half of the trail so plan accordingly!
  • Park at Bear Gulch Visitor Center and start hiking along Condor Gulch Trail (look out for CA condors!)
  • Condor Gulch Trail -> High Peaks Trail -> Rim Trail
  • Rim Trail -> Moses Spring Trail -> High Peaks Trail (swing by Bear Gulch Cave if it's open!)
Bear Gulch and Balconies Caves are home to colonies of big-eared bats, and open to the public for certain parts of the year. Check the schedule.

Return to camp for an afternoon picnic

  • Prep a picnic lunch and chillax around camp
  • If it's open, jump into the pool!

Grill up dinner

  • Prep a delicious meal and warm up with your favorite hot bevvie.
  • Roast up s'mores and soak up your last night in Pinnacles!
PNP was home to several Native American groups: Chalon and Mutsun, which were part of the Ohlone people.

Day Three

Pinnacles National Park. Credit: Trip Advisor

Cook up brekkie, pack up and check out before 11 AM

  • Clean up around camp and throw away any random pieces of litter

Head home!

California red-legged frogs are an endangered species in PNP. You might be able to spot them when you hike to Bear Gulch Reservoir.
June 1, 2024

Bewilder at LAist Super-Fun Saturday

Make wildflower seed bombs with Bezzi the Yeti at LAist's Super Fun Saturday

Event in 2 days

Bewilder Basecamp: Spooky Wonders

Join Bezzi the Yeti on her first spooky camping adventure!

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Bezzi's Pick
$399.95

NEMO 4-person Aurora Highrise

This colorful tent has plenty of standing room, is easy to set up, and pack out!

Bezzi's Pick
$249.95

NEMO Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair

Lean back, and we mean all the way back, in this comfy camp chair. You'll never want to sit up.

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$159.95

NEMO Moonlander Camp Table

We can confirm that these camp tables withstand hot bevvies and rock collections.

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Food For The Sole Blueberry Banana Crunch

Gluten Free • Vegan

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Breakfast

Packit Gourmet Diner Deluxe Eggs with Sausage

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Dessert

Campfire cinnamon roll ups

Vegetarian

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Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Blueberries

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Angie's Boom Chicka Pop

Gluten Free · Vegan

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Santa Cruz Organic Apple Sauce

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Summer rolls with almond butter satay

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Dan dan noodles

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Asian chicken lettuce wraps

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Pho ramen

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Curry ramen

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Peanut butter cheesecake overnight oats

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