Pinnacles National Park is one of the newest and most underrated (and best) national parks in the United States. It’s known for its diverse wildlife, variety of spring wildflowers, and miles of trails.
Pinnacles National Park is truly a must-visit for tourists looking for the perfect spring getaway to escape the freezing winter weather! The park is smaller than most other parks in California, so you might think there’s not much to it.
But you’ll find stunning geological formations, like its many talus caves, make it well worth a visit! The caves offer plenty of exploration and breathtaking views you won’t find anywhere else in California.
Although the park has the most pleasant weather year-round, knowing the best time to visit Pinnacles National Park is critical. Here’s a guide to help you plan a camping or day trip.
Overall Best Time to Visit Pinnacles National Park
The best time to visit Pinnacles National Park is mid-February to early June. This period has excellent weather and fewer crowds for maximum enjoyment!
Pinnacles National Park is so nice during mid February through early June. These periods are the sweet spot where you get fewer crowds, great weather, and amazing views!
Temperatures range from 60F to 65F in February and March, so it’s nice and mild. Snow won’t be a concern at this time of year, making it easy to enjoy outdoor activities like bird-watching and hiking.
Towards the spring months (April-June), the temperatures rise to 78F, with June experiencing highs of 80F. Tourists visiting in late June have a chance to participate in the Steinbeck Festival, a three-day celebration of the life and accomplishments of John Steinbeck.
Cheapest Time to Visit Pinnacles National Park
The cheapest time to visit Pinnacles National Park is during the summer season from June to August.
You won’t get discounted rates on your entrance, but you’ll find that accommodations may be cheaper at this time of year. You have the hot temperatures to thank for that!
The high temperature levels in summer deter tourists from visiting the park. Highs can reach dangerous levels that make hiking and sightseeing a bit more uncomfortable. If that won’t deter you, it may be a cheaper time to go.
You may find that flight costs are lower, accommodations and camping is cheaper, and you can explore many areas without the large crowds experienced during spring.
Least Busy Time to Visit Pinnacles National Park
The least busy time to visit Pinnacles National Park is in the summer months – July, August, and September.
Summer is actually the off-season for the park as the temperatures discourage many tourists from visiting the park. It gets really hot (into the 90s) and sunny at this time of year!
The crowds are smaller than in the previous winter and spring seasons, so you can access many areas without standing in line or waiting for your turn to take shots of incredible views.
If you do visit during this period, carry lots of sunscreen and drink water to stay hydrated. There isn’t much shade along the paths and it’s easy to overheat in this weather.
If you find yourself visiting in July, you may find the California Rodeo Salinas feast in session. The four-day event showcases concerts, parades, and different rodeo events and is the largest rodeo in California.
Worst Time to Visit Pinnacles National Park
The worst time to visit Pinnacles National Park is from October to December. The weather gets chilly and the park will be crowded.
October to December are actually really popular periods for Pinnacles visitors, but that’s one of the reasons it’s not a prime time to go. Crowds mean your views won’t be as spectacular and the trails will be packed.
The temperatures fall to highs of 60F- 78F at this time of year, providing the perfect escape from the freezing winter weather. While that’s a treat compared to the hot summer days, it’s also the main draw for thousands of other visitors.
If you must go in fall or winter, it’s a great time to attend the Salinas Air Show. This is a celebration of the industry’s aviation excellence for the last 40 years. It’s a full day of entertainment characterized by numerous educational exhibits.
Things to Consider
Still unsure about the best time to visit Pinnacles National Park? Take a look at our summary of the weather and climate by month below:
Winter temperatures at Pinnacles National Park range from 3 to 16°C (37-60°F). January is an excellent time for hiking the park’s trails, exploring the talus caves, and observing winter wildlife such as migratory birds.
Similar to January, February maintains cool temperatures between 4 to 17°C (39-63°F). Visitors can enjoy the quieter park, spot diverse bird species, and take advantage of the clear winter skies for stargazing.
As spring begins, temperatures range from 6 to 19°C (43-66°F). March is a great time for wildflower viewing, especially along the Condor Gulch and High Peaks trails. Spring also marks the nesting season for the California condors.
Spring temperatures in Pinnacles National Park range from 8 to 23°C (46-73°F). It’s an ideal time for hiking, rock climbing, and enjoying the vibrant wildflower displays. The Bear Gulch Reservoir is a picturesque spot for a picnic.
May sees temperatures ranging from 10 to 27°C (50-81°F). It’s a great month for exploring the park’s caves, birdwatching, and taking in the breathtaking views from the High Peaks. Longer daylight hours provide more time for outdoor activities.
Summer arrives with temperatures between 13 to 32°C (55-90°F). June offers opportunities for camping, rock climbing in the Bear Gulch area, and witnessing the park’s diverse plant life in full bloom.
July maintains warm temperatures from 15 to 35°C (59-95°F). It’s a popular month for stargazing events organized by the park, as well as exploring the diverse ecosystems along the Bench and Balconies trail.
Temperatures in August range from 15 to 35°C (59-95°F). It’s an excellent time for sunrise or sunset hikes to capture the beauty of the landscape. Visitors can also participate in ranger-led programs to learn more about the park’s geology and wildlife.
As fall begins, temperatures range from 13 to 32°C (55-90°F). September offers a pleasant transition, with opportunities for birdwatching, exploring the caves, and enjoying the changing colors of the landscape.
October sees temperatures ranging from 10 to 28°C (50-82°F). It’s a great month for hiking the Moses Spring to Rim Trail, rock climbing in the High Peaks, and attending ranger-led programs.
Fall temperatures range from 6 to 20°C (43-68°F). November is perfect for exploring the park’s quieter trails, observing wildlife preparing for winter, and taking in the scenery without the summer crowds.
Winter returns with temperatures ranging from 3 to 16°C (37-60°F). December brings opportunities for quiet contemplation, birdwatching, and enjoying the park’s serene winter atmosphere.
Things to Consider
If you really want to make the most of your trip to this stunning park, you need some guidance. Here are some helpful tips to help you plan and enjoy a visit to Pinnacles National Park to the fullest!
- There’s an entrance fee. Private vehicle owners are required to pay $30 the first time they visit the park, which is valid for seven days. Motorcyclists, hikers, and bikers pay $25 and $15 for 7-day entrance, respectively. Visitors over 62 can purchase a $60 lifetime pass; a great value!
- Bring an insect repellent. Carry and spray an insect repellent on your skin. This especially applies if you’re visiting the redwoods, which are known breeding grounds for mosquitoes. You’ll be glad you came prepared!
- Carry a flashlight. Flashlights come in handy when exploring caves and other dark passages. It’s a great tool to have on-hand for emergencies, too.
- Bring lots of water. If you’re planning to go hiking, carry plenty of water. This is extremely important in the sunny, hot summer months! Most of the trails don’t have shade, and once you’re up in the rocks, it gets 10 degrees hotter. Water will keep you hydrated and help prevent overheating on the trail.
- Climbing is best left to the experts. Most of the rocks in the park are made from weak volcanic tuff and breccia. This makes them a little fragile for climbing if you’re a novice. If you’re skilled and decide to go climbing here, be alert and don’t take chances.
- Watch out for rattlesnakes. If you’ll be hiking in the evening or late afternoons, you should watch out for rattlesnakes. The snakes emerge from their hiding places to soak in the warmth of the sun. Listen carefully for the rattle sound and be alert as you hike through rocky areas!
- Ask about the best activities. Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center when you arrive! You can ask about the best trails, hikes, and activities for your age and fitness level. You’ll also get the best seasonal advice for the time of year you’re there.
- Avoid bringing your dog. It might sound like a great idea to bring Fido, but this isn’t the place to bring your furry best friend. Dogs are only allowed in areas where cars can go, not the trails in Pinnacles National Park.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still got some questions you need answers to before you head to Pinnacles? Here are the most commonly asked questions about visiting Pinnacles National Park. Review them to see if you find your answer!
Which is the best side to visit in Pinnacles National Park?
The park's west side is the best if you don't want to walk on uneven terrains. It also provides a better view of the peaks from the Chaparral Trail parking area.
How many days do I need to explore Pinnacles National Park?
A two-day trip is enough to explore the park. You have ample time to hike the east and west sides of the parks, explore the cave, and rock climb. A day's trip only gives you a general feel of the scenery.
Which Pinnacles National Park entrance is better?
Both entrances have their pros and cons. While the east entrance leads you to the campground, it has more trails than the west entrance.
The west entrance is also less crowded and closer to the Monterey Bay area.
What's the fastest way to get to Pinnacles National Park?
The fastest way to get to the national park is by flying to Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. Upon arrival, rent a car and drive to the park.
What's the cheapest way to get to Pinnacles National Park?
If you're traveling on a budget, renting a car in San Francisco and driving to Pinnacles National Park is best.
This route is a little bit longer (two hours) but renting a car in San Francisco is cheaper than in San Jose.
Do you need to make reservations when entering the park?
No, visitors don't need to make reservations to enter the park. You will need to make reservations for camping in advance.
You can also pay your entry fee ahead of time online if desired!
Are the Pinnacles National Park trails kid-friendly?
Most trails at the park are steep and hilly but still kid-friendly. They're also pretty short, allowing you and the kids to take one long day's trip.
Can you drive through the park?
It's not possible to drive through the park and get the awesome views. Try to determine the best entrance (east or west) to use according to the views you want to hike to see.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Pinnacles National Park?
The overall best time to visit Pinnacles National Park is the late winter/early spring (mid-February) through early summer (mid-June). The weather is perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, and the beautiful blooms of wildflowers create breathtaking scenery you don’t want to miss.
If you’re looking for amazing views, a national park you can explore fully within a day or two, and the chance to make memories along winding, rocky trails, Pinnacles will thrill you at any time of year.