Pinnacles is one of California's many National Parks and is home to both endangered bats and the endangered and recently released Californian condors. Plan one's trip by checking with the National Park Service's calendar and see some of the country's most fascinating bat caves. Go to Zambia's Kasanka National Park and see 5 million bats migrating - a sight no one will forget.
Around 23 million years ago, volcanoes erupted and formed what has today become Pinnacles National Park. The volcanic landscape and relative recentness of this region put it in stark contrast to that of the ancient Appalachians on the other side of the continent. Utah is also famous for its national parks with extremely eye-catching landscapes.
Pinnacles - A Landscape Born Of Fire
Pinnacles National Park is easy to reach and is only around 80 miles southeast of San Jose. It takes its name from the eroded leftovers of the western half of an extinct volcano. Perhaps one of the most incredible aspects of this park is that the pinnacles have moved 200 miles from their original location due to the San Andreas Fault.
- Moved: The Land Has Moved 200 Miles Long The San Andreas Fault
- Formed: Around 23 Million Years Ago By Volcanoes
Today the landscape is a unique one and is one of chaparral, oak woodlands, and canyon bottoms. It is a landscape of towering rock spires teeming with life and a few rare talus caves. See bats, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and perhaps even the endangered California condor.
Most of the parklands are protected as wilderness and are managed by the National Park Service.
- Talus Caves: Formed By Large Boulders In A Heap
- Bats: Around 13 Species of Bats
The park is notable for its unusual talus caves. Talus caves are caves formed by opening among large boulders that have fallen into a heap (typically at the bases of cliffs). These caves are home to at least 13 species of bats.
Bear Gulch Cave - The Bat Cave
Bear Gulch Cave is one of the main caves in Pinnacles and has two sections. The lower main section is open for much of the year, while the upper section is only rarely open. The upper section is normally only open for a few weeks a year to protect the endangered bats calling it home. The whole cave is open twice a year, in March and October, depending on the colony of bats.
The NPS tries to keep over half of the Bear Gulch Cave for almost ten months of the year. Whether the cave is open is due in part to that the hibernating colony of bats showing no signs of disturbance.
- Open: Generally Mid-July to Mid-May
- Closed: For The Bat's Pupping Season
- Fully Open: Twice A Year For At Least One Week In March And October
Sometimes the whole cave will be closed before mid-May if the maternity colony is present. It is then closed for pupping season.
- Bats: Townsend's Big-Eared Bats
- Largest: The Largest Colony Between San Francisco and Mexico
The Townsend's big-eared bats rest in the Bear Gulch Cave in the winter and raise their pups there in the spring and summer.
To know the scheduled calendar, see the NPS website but not that the actual dates may change according to the breeding patterns of the bat colony and any signs of disturbance among the bats.
Balconies Caves - Pinnacle's Other Talus Cave
The other talus caves in Pinnacles are the Balconies Caves. Pinnacles are home to Balconies on the west side, while Bear Gulch is on the east side. Both of the cave systems are home to several species of bats - so remember to look up!
The Balconies Caves are open and can be hiked to by the Balconies Cave Trail. Remember to bring a headlamp and trek the 2-mile out and back trail - or do the full 2.4-mile loop hike that crosses volcanic rock formations and journeys through the twisting and dark passages of Balconies Cave.
- Trail: Hike The 2.4 Mile Loop Hike To and Through Balconies Caves
- Tip: Bring A Headlamp
Expect narrow walkways and tight crevices between giant boulders. Hikers will need to duck and perhaps sometimes even crawl under some boulders. Some caves never get completely dark, while others do.
The hike through the cave has been described as somewhat physically demanding. It is not a trail for the claustrophobic.