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Pinnacles: Our newest National Park

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Pinnacles National Park will be celebrating its first birthday on Jan. 10, 2014. Located in central California, south of San Francisco, in the Gabilan Mountains of California’s Coast Ranges, the park was originally designated a National Monument in 1908 by President Teddy Roosevelt.

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The park was formed 23 million years ago when a gigantic volcano split in half, leaving the western edge 150 miles north of its original location along the San Andreas fault. The park is divided by rocky sections into an eastern and western section. The east has shade and water, while the western division is dominated by high walls.

Thirty miles of trails connect the two divisions of Pinnacles, and visitors have access to the 26,000 acres year round. Besides the rich diversity of wildlife, the park abounds with wildflowers in the spring of the year.

But rock climbers will find the remains of the ancient volcano an excellent place to hone their skills. The rock formations, natural monuments and pinnacles are absolutely amazing. There are also miles of caverns and caves that wind through the jagged monolithic spires of rock, and the park is home to 13 varieties of bats.

With a diurnal Mediterranean climate. Winters have mild highs and very cold lows, while summers are extremely dry and have extremely hot days and cold nights. This weather pattern accounts for the great diversity seen in the wildlife. Pinnacles is home to Prairie falcons and the reintroduced California Condor. Visitors can also see bobcats, cougars, wild turkeys and many other birds and mammals.

The caves in the park are called talus caves. They were formed when large fallen rock, called talus, wedged into the tops of narrow gorges, creating roofed passages, creating some of the largest talus caves in the United States. Be sure to view the slide show for an armchair guided tour of our newest National Park.

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