Millions of years ago, multiple volcanoes erupted to form a unique landscape. From talus caves to towering rock spires, the terrain at Pinnacles National Park is a treat for hikers and climbers. This landscape is also home to a rare bird species, the California Condor.
The California Condor is native to this region, but these birds have faced an uncertain future. By 1987, condors had become extinct in the wild with all remaining birds in captivity. Captive birds were released back into the wild in Southern California in 1992 and at Big Sur in 1997. In 2003, Pinnacles National Park also became a release site for these endangered birds. Over a period of 15 years, 20-30 condors were released at Pinnacles. While still critically endangered, numbers in the wild had increased to 276 by 2017.
A national monument since 1908, the unique landscape and habitat for endangered species made Pinnacles the perfect candidate to become the newest national park. January 10th, 2013, President Barack Obama signed legislation passed by Congress that redesignated this monument into the 59th national park. This redesignation also included a 3,000 acre expansion of wilderness named the Hain wilderness, in honor of homesteader Schuyler Hain who worked to protect this area in the early 1900s.
Find out more about Pinnacles National Park on the National Park Service website.
Dog-Friendly Activities at Pinnacles National Park
Like most national parks, dogs visiting Pinnacles must be leashed and are only allowed on roads, in the campground and at picnic areas, with few exceptions. Despite these common regulations, most national parks are still worth visiting with your four-legged family. Unfortunately, Pinnacles National Park does not have much to offer for those visiting with dogs.
Overall, Pinnacles National Park is one of the least dog-friendly national parks we have visited thus far. During our travels, we strictly abide by the dog rules/regulations at each park. Additionally, we typically check with a park ranger prior to walking the pups anywhere. Despite our diligence, at Pinnacles National Park we were stopped both by other visitors and a park ranger to remind us that dogs were not allowed on the hiking trails. Both times we were stopped, we were walking through the Bear Gulch picnic area near the trailhead. A place that dogs are allowed and that we had verified with a park ranger was an acceptable place to visit with pups.
In addition to the feeling that dogs are unwelcome not only on the trails, but even near the trailhead, little of this park can be seen from the road. There are no stunning overlooks to pull off at and enjoy the views with your pup.
Despite the negatives listed above, the park ranger at the information booth did alert us to one dog-friendly trail at the campground. From the campground, you can follow a flat and short, but nice trail to the Bacon Ranch Homestead. The pups enjoyed the chance to stretch there legs on this trail. We were even lucky enough to have the trail to ourselves.
If you really want to hike the main trails, the ranger that stopped us in the picnic area did let us know that if the temperature was under 70 degrees, it was okay for us to leave the dogs in the RV to enjoy the trails without them.
Find out more about visiting Pinnacles National Park with pets here.
Camping at Pinnacles National Park
There is one campground at Pinnacles National Park. Pinnacles Campground contains group, tent, and RV (with electric hook-up) sites and can be accessed from the east side of the park.
The campground itself is nice, but do be aware that this campground is operated by a private company, not by Pinnacles National Park. And this was the only campground we stayed at during our 3 month road trip where we found the campground employees/hosts to be rude and unhelpful.
Dog-Friendly Activities in the Surrounding Area
Since the national parks are so close together in California, we drove straight from Channel Islands National Park to Pinnacles National Park to Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks. We loved the dog friendly beaches around Channel Islands. And the mountain hiking trails of the national forest around Kings Canyon were stunning. So check out our blog posts for each of those parks for better dog-friendly opportunities.
Pinnacles National Park is full of stunning hiking trails through rocky landscapes. And your visit isn’t complete until you catch a glimpse of a California Condor. But overall, this is one of the least dog-friendly national parks in the United States. You might want to contact your favorite pet sitter before making plans to visit Pinnacles National Park.