Established in 2013, Pinnacles National Park preserves a unique landscape that has been continually shaped to what it is today over millions of years. It is named after the remnants of an extinct volcano on the western side of the park. This and other volcanoes erupted 23 million years ago, forming the 30-mile wide volcanic field seen today. Water and wind erosion, landslides, earthquakes, and other natural forces have created an interesting landscape that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The park features a wide range of ecosystems including oak woodlands, canyons, grasslands, talus caves (caves formed by large boulders wedged into canyons), and shrubland. It is also split in two by the San Andrea fault. As a result, the west side of the park has moved 195 miles to the north. Wildlife is abundant in the park. Some California Condors, which are very endangered, live in the park, which is also a condor reintroduction and release location. There are two visitor centers (the one on the map is located on the west side) and it is important to note that a road does not traverse the park.


  • Pinnacles National Park features rock formations such as these, which draw many tourists each year.
    Pinnacles National Park features rock formations such as these, which draw many tourists each year.
  • The park was established in 2013 but first became a national monument in 1908.
    The park was established in 2013 but first became a national monument in 1908.
  • A California Condor begins to fly. There are only a few hundred condors in the wild today.
    A California Condor begins to fly. There are only a few hundred condors in the wild today.

Evidence of human habitation dates back 10,000 years but there is no indication that villages were established in the park boundaries. No thorough archaeological investigations have taken place in the park, however, so such sites may be found. What is known is that ancient peoples took advantage of the natural resources found here. They hunted and gathered food, and practiced non-agricultural methods such as weeding, pruning, and selective harvesting. 

The arrival of the Spanish in the last quarter of the 1700s began to change everything for the native inhabitants of the area—the Chalon, Amah Mutson, and other tribes. Disease had already hit native populations hard by the time the Spanish came but the introduction of missions and Christianity completely overturned the native way of life. Descendants of the tribes to still live in the area today and help manage the park with the National Park Service.

In 1891, homesteader Schuyler Hain visited what would become the park and was amazed by what he saw. He realized the value of the site and recognized that it could draw tourists and help the local economy (as well as protect it). He led the campaign to get the are protected, which finally occurred in 1908 when it became a national monument. For his efforts, Schuyler earned the nickname the "Father of the Pinnacles."  

"History and Culture." National Park Service - Pinnacles National Park. Accessed April 25, 2018.  https://www.nps.gov/pinn/learn/historyculture/index.htm.

Photos: National Park Service