Best Time to Visit Pinnacles National Park

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Best Time to Visit Pinnacles National Park is the smallest national park in California. It’s in Central California east of the Salinas Valley, about 80 miles southeast of San Jose. Pinnacles National Park’s location gives it a mild climate you can enjoy year-round, but there are better times than others when you should visit Pinnacles National Park. Today, we discuss the best time to visit Pinnacles National Park and what you should do while you’re there.

Best Time to Visit Pinnacles National Park

You can visit Pinnacles National Park year-round. It has a mild climate that makes the winter bearable enough to enjoy being outside. Pinnacles National Park can get hot in the summer, so the best time to visit Pinnacles National Park is between October and May.

Tourist Season

The busiest months in Pinnacles National Park are the cooler seasons (fall, winter, and spring) that cover October to May every year. Summer is the off-season for Pinnacles National Park because it can get so hot. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be people visiting the park in the summer, but the time to visit to get the best experience will be the cooler months between October and May.


Pinnacles National Park has a mild climate that makes the winter months enjoyable. With that said, the summer months can get extremely hot, which is why they are often less busy with tourists than the fall, winter, and spring months. It can easily reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest summer months of July and August.

During the fall from October to December, the daily high temperature ranges from about 60 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. In October, the high is often in the 70s, while the high temperatures in November and December will be in the 60s.

During the winter months of January to March, the daily high temperature ranges from about 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The low temperatures in winter are still relatively mild, typically staying above freezing in the 30s. Because of this, Pinnacles National Park very rarely gets snow. This makes it easy and comfortable to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and bird-watching in Pinnacles National Park throughout the year.

During the spring months from April to June, it starts to warm up. April and May are comfortable with high temperatures that range from about 70 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, while June typically reaches highs in the 80s.

July, August, and September have highs that average in the 90s. September is only slightly cooler with an average high temperature in the upper 80s. This is why the most comfortable and popular time to visit Pinnacles National Park is between October and May.

Getting To and Around Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park View

If you enter Pinnacles National Park into your GPS, you may receive instructions to one of two entrances. It’s important to know where those entrances are and what the differences are between those two entrances.

Pinnacles National Park’s west entrance is on California State Route 146 East. California State Route 146 East connects the town of Soledad to Pinnacles National Park, so if you’re coming from Soledad or western California, you’ll likely enter the park through the west entrance.

The east entrance to Pinnacles National Park is on California State Route 146 East via California State Route 25 near Hollister. When using the east entrance, we recommend parking at the Moses Spring Parking Area. The Moses Spring Parking Area gives you the best access to the trails that get you up to the Pinnacles.

The Moses Spring Parking Area can fill up quickly, so try to get there early. If you cannot park at the Moses Spring Parking Area, try the Bear Gulch Day Use Area, which is the next closest parking area and near the Bear Gulch Cave. From there, the parking areas get further from the pinnacles trailheads. Parking at the Manzanita Parking Area, Peaks View Parking Area, or the Old Pinnacles Parking Area will put you the furthest from the pinnacles trailheads.

No road runs through the park. You will have to park at one of the parking areas and hike to the other side of the park to access the park, so it is important to know which entrance you should choose when arriving at Pinnacles National Park.

What to Do in Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is the smallest national park in California, but that doesn’t mean there’s not much to do. Pinnacles National Park is the ideal park to visit in central California if you like hiking, camping, rock climbing, and even wine tasting!

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles are what Pinnacles National Park is named after. The Pinnacles are remnants of an extinct volcano that shifted from its original position on the San Andreas Fault. The peaks and valleys of the Pinnacles are from millions of years of wind and water erosion.

Many different hiking trails lead to the Pinnacles or connect to the Pinnacles. High Peaks Trail is the one to take if you want to get as close to the top of the Pinnacles as possible. Many trails connect to the High Peaks Trail, giving you the option to access High Peaks Trail from many access points. Try the Old Pinnacles trailhead, Balconies Trail, or head to Condor Gulch Overlook and keep your eyes peeled for a California condor while you’re there.

The Caves

Pinnacles National Park has two major talus caves that you can hike to. Bear Gulch Cave Trail is a 1.5-mile hike with an elevation change of 275 feet. You can access different trailheads and loops throughout the 1.5-mile hike to the cave and back.

The other talus cave that you can hike to is the Balconies Cave. The Balconies Cave trail is a two-mile hike with an additional loop option for you to stop at volcanic rock formations found on the trail.

The cave trails are prone to puddles and wet rocks in the days following heavy rain, so keep that in mind if you will be hiking the cave trails after it has rained.

The Wildflowers

The wildflowers at Pinnacles National Park are in full bloom from March until May. The park estimated that more than 80% of Pinnacles NP’s wildflowers are in full bloom during this time. If the winter months of December and January have been mild, it’s common for the wildflowers to begin blooming as early as January. The same goes for if May and June are wet and mild. The flowers can continue blooming into June before the heat of the summer months removes the blossoms.

The Wildlife

Pinnacles National Park is home to many different species of wildlife that you can see throughout the park. Black-tailed deer, foxes, and bobcats are the largest species of mammals seen throughout the park, while smaller critters like rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, and chipmunks make up the remainder of the wildlife population.

The best wildlife to see throughout Pinnacles National Park are the many species of birds. Condors fly throughout the park and can be a favorite for visitors and tourists. While you’re not watching the condors, you can see nearly 200 other different species of birds fly throughout the park.

The Wineries

Outside of Pinnacles National Park is a variety of wineries you can visit during your trip. There are two wineries located near the west entrance of Pinnacles National Park. Chalone Vineyard and Michaud Winery are located near the west entrance and can be enjoyed at the end of your day at Pinnacles National Park.

Festivals and Events in Pinnacles National Park

Visiting Pinnacles National Park in central California allows you to enjoy nearby festivals and events in the area.

These are some of the most popular festivals and events in and around Pinnacles National Park.

  • Steinbeck Festival The Steinbeck Festival in Salinas, California is a three-day festival that celebrates the life and accomplishments of author John Steinbeck. There are films, tours, and various activities in Monterey County, California during this festival.
  • California Rodeo SalinasThe California Rodeo Salinas takes place every July and takes place at the Salinas Sports Complex. It is the largest rodeo in California and one of the top 20 Professional Rodeos in the United States. It is a four-day event that includes parades, concerts, and various rodeo events.
  • Salinas Air Show If you love air shows and demonstrations, visit Pinnacles National Park in October, and you can attend the annual Salinas Air Show at the Salinas Municipal Airport.

Pinnacles National Park Rock Mountains

Visit Pinnacles National Park

There are many things to do in and near Pinnacles National Park. The next time you plan to visit central California, you should plan to take at least one day to visit Pinnacles National Park to see the post-volcanic Pinnacles and the many species of wildlife that inhabit the area.


Does it Snow in Pinnacles National Park?

Snow is very unlikely in Pinnacles National Park. The coldest months are January to March with high temperatures often averaging in the 60s. Any snow that may fall during a cold front is very short-lived. Pinnacles National Park is not the park to visit if you want to see snow.

How Much Time Do You Need in Pinnacles National Park?

You can hike all of the trails in Pinnacles National Park in a day. It is the smallest national park in California, so it’s possible to see the Pinnacles and visit the caves all on the same day. If you prefer not to be rushed or to jam-pack your day from sun-up to sun-down, you can split visiting Pinnacles National Park up into two days.

Best Time to Visit Pinnacles National Park

Best Hikes in Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park Camping

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