Created only in January 2013, Pinnacles National Park is the youngest of the National Parks, so we were excited to start our trip off to a new park neither of us had been to. Ryan and I arrived at the eastern side on Wednesday afternoon after a very pleasant drive from the Bay. We planned to stay for two nights and fill our days with hiking, picture-taking and soaking it all in. Arriving midweek meant we did not need a reservation and we were able to secure a campsite with the help of the friendly park staff.
We quickly set up camp at site 36, which afforded spectacular views of the mountains and ample space for our gear, and convenient proximity to water and (clean!) restrooms. Our first night was spent learning how to use the new camp stove and cooking a delicious dinner of macaroni and cheese with fresh broccoli. Following dinner we cleaned up and hit the hay, after gazing at a crystal-clear sky full of brilliant stars!
Thursday morning we woke up to a symphony of song birds welcoming the sun as it's crested over the tall mountain peak. We quickly ate breakfast and got ready for the first hike of the honeymoon! We opted for a longer hike with mild elevation gain to the Balconies Caves. The hike followed a well-maintained trail along a dry river bed filled with wildflowers, into the forest and through a very narrow cave reminiscent of Indiana Jones - flashlights were a must because the cave was dark as night.
As we emerged on the other side, we ate a light lunch of cheese, crackers and apple, and started back to camp via the Balconies Cliffs trail, which added an extra half mile. The detour took us up and up, and was well worth the effort as we were rewarded with sweeping views of the Pinnacles decorated with pine trees rooted in the rocks' crevices. We descended the cliffs and rejoined with the Balconies Cave trail and headed back to camp.
On our second night, we had another delicious outdoor dinner, a glittering starlight show and a peaceful slumber after a nearly 10-mile hike. We packed up Friday morning and drove to Bear Gulch and our visit to Pinnacles concluded with a walk up the Bear Gulch trail to loosen tight muscles before hitting the road for our next stop.
Pinnacles certainly did not disappoint, and we will definitely be coming back!
Ryan and Cristina's travel blog, detailing our adventures in US National Parks and overseas in New Zealand and SE Asia.
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