Two entrances lead to the park: The West Entrance from Soledad and U.S. 101 is a dusty, winding single-lane road (not suitable for trailers) with the best drive-up view. Exit at Front Street in Soledad, turn right, and then turn left onto Hwy. 46 heading east (it doesn't connect with the east side entrance). The west gate is open daily from 7:30am to 8pm (until 6pm in winter).
The alternative route is via the East Entrance. Unless you're coming from nearby, take the longer drive on Hwy. 25 through Gilroy and Hollister to enter through the east. Because most of the peaks of the Pinnacles face east and the watershed drains east, most of the interesting hikes and geologic features are on this side. The east gate is open 24 hours a day. No road crosses the park.
Park entrance fees, good for 7 days, are $3 per person or $5 per car.
The first place you should go when entering from the east is the Bear Gulch Visitor Center (tel. 831/389-4485), open daily from 9am to 5pm. This small center is rich with exhibits on the park's history, wildlife, and geology, with a great selection of nature handbooks and climbing guides for the Pinnacles. Climbers should check with rangers about closures and other information before heading out: Many routes are closed during hawk- and falcon-nesting season, and rangers like to know how many climbers are in the park.
Adjacent to the visitor center, the Bear Gulch picnic ground is a great place to fuel up before setting out on a hike. Don't leave before gazing up at the dramatic spires of the high peaks (the ultimate spot is from the west side).
For more information, log on to the park's website at www.nps.gov/pinn.
Regulations & Warnings
Beware of poison oak, particularly in Bear Gulch. Rattlesnakes are common but rarely seen. Bikes and dogs are prohibited on all trails, and no backcountry camping is allowed in the park.
Hiking through this variety of landscapes demands versatility. Come prepared with a good pair of hiking shoes, snacks, lots of water, and a flashlight.
Daytime temperatures often exceed 100°F (38°C) in summer, so the best time of year to visit is spring, when the wildflowers are blooming, or in the fall. Crowds are common during spring weekends.