Last weekend, I traveled to California for our annual Slow Travel West Coast get together. It is traditionally held on Super Bowl weekend in Paso Robles. It is a wonderful time getting together with friends and enjoying the area.
I usually fly into San Jose and drive down. Last trip, I went via Highway 1 and the Big Sur area. I wanted to do something different this time. The drive down Highway 101 is interesting. I am amazed at the fertile Salinas Valley and to realize how much the valley feeds the West Coast. But it is not real spectacular.
I remember a small obscure National Monument just west of Solidad called Pinnacles National Monument. I camped there in high school with a school club called the Alpine Club. Our biology teach was also a leader at Outward Bound and he led up a group focusing on hiking, rock climbing and camping. We had once a month overnight camping trips to different parks that were within a 3 hour drive of the Central Valley.
We camped in February at the east section of Pinnacles. I remember the brilliant stars when we went out for a night walk and turned off our flash lights. I also loved hiking among the high rocks and in the caves. I have been trying to get back and this was my chance.
I landed and got my car by 9:00am in San Jose. I headed straight for Pinnacles. It is about 12 miles west of Solidad but it will take about 30 minutes to drive the narrow winding road. It starts among the vineyards of Chalone Winery and climbs up through the digger pines and chaparral. The west entrance is for day use only. I got to the parking lot about 11am.
There are two options to hike from the parking lot. I had considered doing the Balconies Cliff hike but after seeing the Condor Crags towering above, I decided to hike along Juniper Canyon. It is 1.8 miles to the junction of High Rocks. I did not go that far. I was enjoying the walk along the burbling stream under the oaks and along the junipers. The trail turns and starts to climb up through the high rocks visible from the parking lot. I went slowly and savored the views. I decided to turn around after about 1 hour and was back at the parking lot in 30 minutes. Another 30 minutes and I was back on Highway 101 and headed to Paso Robles with a lot of great memories of my short detour.
Here are some pictures of the area.
Condor Crag view from the parking lot