Pinnacles National Park reopens, but with some restrictions

Pinnacles National Park, a 26,000-acre landmark south of
Hollister renowned for its towering rock formations, dark caves and
California condors, has reopened after being mostly closed for two
months in the coronavirus pandemic.

The park, first set aside for protection in 1908 by President
Theodore Roosevelt, began allowing day use visitors on Friday.
Until then, the only people allowed in were those with overnight
camping reservations.

Entrance fees are not being charged. But there are restrictions. For now,
shuttle buses are not running, the caves are closed, and the
visitor centers are closed.

Most significant, visitors coming for the day are not allowed to
drive vehicles into the park. It’s six miles from the eastern
entrance along Highway 25 and 2.5 miles from the western entrance
outside Soledad to get to the heart of the park where its most
popular trails are. Parks officials are encouraging people who want
to visit to be dropped off at the gate with bicycles and picked up
later.

Only visitors with disabled placards on their vehicles will be
able to drive in. The reason, said Pinnacles Superintendent Blanca
Alvarez Stransky, is that park officials are trying to avoid long
lines of cars and crowded parking lots, which could pose health
risks while the pandemic is still a threat.

“We realize that this is for a more hardy outdoors person,”
she said Saturday. “We are working really hard and very
diligently to open the park to more visitors. That will be in
another two to three weeks. We wanted to give people some
opportunity now, even though it’s still limited. We know that
it’s not ideal, but we’re trying to do the best we can under
the circumstances.”

Judy
Sintetos and Yoko McMillin follow the High Peaks Trail at Pinnacles
National Park on April 22, 2010. (Gary Reyes/Mercury News)

Pinnacles receives about 220,000 visitors a year. Most come when
the weather is cooler in the spring and winter months. By summer,
when temperatures can reach 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit,
visitation drops. Stransky said as temperatures heat up and the
risk of big crowds decreases, she hopes to open parking lots inside
the park for day use visitors by mid-June.

America’s national parks are slowly re-opening. Over the past
week, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and other national
parks have reopened in limited ways, usually with campgrounds,
restaurants and hotels closed. Officials at Yosemite say they hope
to re-open in the next several weeks, with day-use visitors
required to first obtain a reservation online to keep crowds at the
park to 50 percent of normal summer sizes.

Pinnacles is not as well known as Yosemite, or other national
park units in Northern California like the Golden Gate National
Recreation Area, which includes Alcatraz Island and the Marin
Headlands. But it is a unique attraction.

Located 30 miles south of Hollister in rural San Benito County,
and 75 miles south of San Jose, the park is famous for its huge
rock formations. Popular with climbers, the landscape is part of an
extinct volcano that erupted 23 million years ago near present-day
Los Angeles, then broke up and shifted 200 miles north as plates
slowly moved along the San Andreas Fault over millions of
years.

The park was a national monument from 1908 until 2013, when
President Barack Obama
upgraded it to full national park status after signing a bill
written by former Monterey congressman Sam Farr.
With a higher
profile, visitation has increased 25 percent since then.

Stransky said it is illegal to park along Highway 25, a rural
route near the park’s eastern entrance, or along Highway 146, a
rural route on the western entrance. Rather, visitors should wait
to visit until the park opens more widely, she said, or be dropped
off at the gate with a bike and picked up later that day. For more
information, visit the park’s website at nps.gov/pinn or call 831-389-4486.

Source: FS – All – Interesting – Lifestyle
Pinnacles National Park reopens, but with some
restrictions