Pinnacle National Park, California

Pinnacle National Park (PNP) is one of the least visited of all the national parks. PNP is the closest national park in the bay area. On Sat Morning, I decided a day trip to hike the High Peaks trail that encompasses spectacular views of rock formation, wildlife, and beautiful skyline views. I knew ahead of time that during August end, the weather is particular hot from 12PM-5PM time, so I packed in lots of water, and snacks, hat, and a map before heading out to the park. Its 1h 30 min drive from where I live in Bay area, so I started early at 5 AM, so I can reach the park during the sunrise to capture golden light. I have been to this park before, I knew the route 25 that leads to the east side of the park features some beautiful views of mountains, free farm lands, and interesting landscape for minimalistic photography as well as panoramic photos. When I was driving through route 25, the road was absolutely covered with morning mist, and the landscape looked otherworldly. I followed the road, when the thick mist cleared with some beautiful landscape scenes that uncovered. I stopped, and was there photographing the mist covered landscapes, and I knew the photographs will be best viewed in black and white.

Some of nature’s gritty scenes along route 25

Further moving down on the road, I used my 50mm prime lens to capture three panorama using my tripod. I took a total of 20 images, that was later stitched to vast landscape on the either of route 25. One tip, if you are driving to PNP, reach to this location during the sunrise. It’s just right in front of the entrance to PNP.

Panorama stitched from 20 vertical shots

I stayed on route 25 for an hour until the sun came out to brighten the landscape with golden light. I was really impressed with 100$ prime lens that can capture extremely sharp images. I edited the panorama with aspect ratio of 1:4 and 1.2:3.6, that looked best when viewed.

Views before the entrance to PNP

Finally I reached PNP at around 8.30AM, and I was behind schedule for the hike due to my stint at Route 25. Due to the COVID-19, there was no entrance fee and all the trails were open except the caves Trail. The road at the east side was closed past the campground, and in order to reach the trailhead, I hiked 2.3 miles, that significantly adds up to your over all hike. Fortunately, the walk leading upto the trail head was fun as I could see so many wildlife species including Californian Condors, Ground Squirrels, Woodpeckers, Stellars Jays, Towhees, California Quail, Chipmunk, and Deer. Thats one big benefit of the closed road, so you can enjoy the wildlife surrounding that is often missed while driving to the trailhead.

At 9.45AM, I started my hike from the Old Pinnacles Trail head, and chose the tough High Peaks Trail. This trail was really challenging, and it tested my fitness carrying a heavy backpack with camera gear. On the side I also enjoyed the beautiful views, as well shooting videos for youtube. Thats one thing I enjoy a lot, trying different camera angles, as well as different composition, and light. The high peaks trail in certain places became very narrow, and since there were no crowds, due to COVID and high heat, it was not a problem sharing the trail with oncoming foot traffic. The hike has a nice elevation gain, and when it reached to certain height, the cellphones worked again. I explored the trail and found beautiful views with stunning rock formations, skyline views and wild flowers. These rock formations were so unique.

Highpeaks trail at PNP

However, due to the recent Cal fires near by, the smoke was in the air, it was unbearable to hike further. So I stopped at this point to head back to where I parked my car. This was one of the toughest hike down, as I am a car traveler than a hiker. So I took numerous breaks along the trail, and almost ran out of water. I hiked close to 1h and found a water fountain near the peaks area, and I filled in water to hike another 1-2 miles to where the car was parked. Finally, after 1.30h of hike from rock formation, I reached the car and by the time the temperature soared to 100F. Overall, I still consider this trip a beautiful one with wonderful morning light en route to the Pinnacles Park, and also had fun viewing wildlife as well as unique rock formation. I will in future post a youtube video featuring my hiking trip to the PNP.

2 thoughts on “Pinnacle National Park, California

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