The other-worldly landscape of Pinnacles National Park, located east of Highway 101 near Soledad, about 40 mi/64 km inland of Monterey, is the vestige of an ancient volcanic eruption that occurred in Southern California along the San Andreas Fault. The extinct volcano was later split in two by the movement of the fault: what you see at Pinnacles National Park originated 195 mi/314 km to the south and has inched northward over millions of years by tectonic movement along the Pacific Plate (the rest of the volcano remained to the south). The formations have since been denuded into rocky spires, crags, caves and cliffs scattered across the 26,000 acre/10,522 hectare area. Phone 831-389-4485. http://www.nps.gov/pinn/index.htm.
Pinnacles is a great place for hikers and rock climbers—the trails range from a no-strain walk to daunting, arduous climbs. A variety of flora and birds live in the national park, much of which has been designated federal wilderness. The park is one of only three condor release sites in the U.S. You should also plan to see the ruins of the Mission Soledad in Soledad. Phone 831-678-2586. http://missionsoledad.com.
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