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Heading to Pinnacles National Park with kids and wondering what to do in Pinnacles National Park with kids? You’ve come to the right place! From the best hikes to the junior ranger program, we have some tips for visiting Pinnacles National Park with kids. Pinnacles National Park became a National Park in 2013, making it one of the newer National Parks. Read on for a Pinnacles National Park with kids itinerary.
How to get to Pinnacles National Park
Keep in mind, that there are two sides to Pinnacles National Park-East and West. These two sides are not connected by a road, so be mindful of driving distances when planning your trip. We explored the East side so we will focus on that.
San Francisco to Pinnacles National Park is 2 hours, San Jose is 1 hour and 20 minutes. Hollister is around 40 minutes and Monterey just over an hour. If you’re coming from Southern California, Los Angeles is about 4 hours away, Orange County 4.5 and San Diego 5 hours and 40 minutes. While we live in Orange County, we opted to fly into San Jose, stay the night in Hollister then explore the park the following day.
Best time to visit Pinnacles National Park
The best time to visit Pinnacles National Park is in the spring, when the wildflowers are blooming, or the fall and winter, when the temperatures are cool for hiking and exploring. Summers can get hot and unlike many other National Parks, this is one that’s actually not very crowded in the summer months.
Where to stay when visiting Pinnacles National Park
Camping near Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles campground is on the East side of the park. This campground has tent sites as well as spots for RVs. There are also tent cabins for those who aren’t exactly fond of camping.
Best family-friendly hotels near Pinnacles National Park
While there aren’t any hotels inside Pinnacles National Park, there are many family-friendly hotels near Pinnacles National Park. We stayed in Hollister, about 40 minutes away, at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Hollister. King City, Soledad and Salinas Valley are other areas you can stay.
Things to bring when visiting Pinnacles National Park with kids
- Hiking shoes: It’s an obvious one you’d think, but we’ve seen people in flip flops on National Park trails this year which is why I’m mentioning it.
- Flashlight: If you don’t plan on using your phone or want your kids to have their own, bring a flashlight for the caves.
- National Parks Journal: Milana fills this out on every National Park trip.
Books and games about Pinnacles National Park
Things to do in Pinnacles National Park with kids
Best kid-friendly hiking trails in Pinnacles National Park
- Pinnacles Visitor Center to Bear Gulch day use area: This is an out and back trail, 2.3 miles each way. A section of this trail is wheelchair accessible.
- Pinnacles Visitor Center to South Wilderness Trail: This is a 6.5 mile round trip hike, with not much change in elevation. You’ll walk among magnificent valley oaks.
- Condor Gulch Overlook: This hike is 1.8 miles round trip. At the end of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with views of the condors.
- Moses Spring to Rim Trail Loop: This is a 2.2 mile loop trail, where you can see talus caves. Flashlights are required in the cave, so if your phone doesn’t have one, be sure to bring one!
- Pinnacles Visitor Center to Balconies Cave: Want a longer hike? This 9.4 mile hike takes you along the Chalone Creek . Again, flashlights are required inside the cave.
Junior Ranger program in Pinnacles National Park
Just like all the other National Parks, Pinnacles has a Junior Ranger program. Be sure to pick up your Junior Ranger activity book at any of the ranger stations!
Where to eat with kids near Pinnacles National Park
There are no restaurants inside of Pinnacles National Park, however there are nearby communities with these services. Inside the park, the Pinnacles Campground Store has limited food options if you get desperate.
Have you been to Pinnacles National Park with your kids? While not the most visited park, we really enjoyed our visit! Kids will love exploring the caves and if you’re lucky like us, you might even spot a rattlesnake inside! Want to read this later? Pin one of the images below.