Pinnacles National Park – At a Distance and Up Close

After many years of drought, Northern California this spring was a vibrant palette of colorful plants. Back in April before the blistering heat of what is now summer, I spent a few days at Pinnacles National Park exploring the contrast of the rough rock and the graceful flowers and bright lichens.

The pinnacles are a geologic formation that grew out of two plates of the earth’s crust coming together, with an ancient volcano and erosion thrown into the mix. The humps and spires of the High Peaks Trail arise from the rolling hills below, and they are a frequent haunt of endangered California condors that have been reintroduced here.

View of the High Peaks from below

As I hiked up, the unique formations began to come into view.
The High Peaks Trail is not for the faint of heart with its overhangs and steep steps carved into the rockface. Some places have handrails.
In some places, the rock surface itself is the option to steady yourself.
Climbing up to the top rewards you with sweeping views.

As always when in nature, many of the wonders require a look up close. Spring life was everywhere, from lichens on the rocks to wildflowers.

Lizard in the sunshine

Bush poppy

Blue witch


Silver bush lupine


Wooly paintbrush

California poppy, the official state flower

Fremont’s monkeyflower

Gray mules ears

Bitter root growing on the trail, with the protection someone constructed around it

Unknown flowers


Multiple species of lichen


  1. It amazes me how much I miss real flowers — grown in natural habitat.
    Your pictures and writing reminded me of this time of year on mountaintops in New England, where everything is at a rush to be mated, fruited, seeded and done, before the oh-so-short season switches tack and turns to autumn. Same on the Divide — beauteous displays that just scream “Now! Now! Hurry!”
    I walked by a display of prairie flowers the other day, wedged between a square-mile parking lot, and a rail-to-trail greenway. It was maybe 100′ in circumference — the footprint of a small house — and I did three laps. I’m hungry.

  2. As always, beautiful pictures and inspiring, vivid writing. Thank you once more for the opportunity to experience the beauty of this world through your eyes!

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