The Underrated California Park Rock Climbers Should Add To Their Bucket List

Rock climbing is quickly becoming one of the most popular extreme sports, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. Indoor climbing gyms have been popping up in cities around the world, but nothing beats the feeling of climbing outdoors, where you can take in stunning natural views as you push yourself mentally and physically.

There are multiple unique places to climb outdoors worldwide, and the United States is no exception. With varied landscapes, including mountains and gorges, the U.S. has some of the best destinations for rock climbing. California has the most national parks in America and some are even home to iconic spots for professional climbers. Every national park in California is stunning. Joshua Tree and Yosemite, are some of the most popular places to climb, but if you're looking for a hidden gem climbing destination, consider planning a trip to Pinnacles National Park. 

Located in the Salinas Valley in Central California, Pinnacles National Park has incredible rock formations for climbers to enjoy. Whether you're a beginner climber wanting to test your skills and try out the sport or a pro looking for a new destination to get your adrenaline pumping, Pinnacles is the perfect underrated climbing destination.

The best climbs at Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is named after the epic rock formations, or pinnacles, formed from volcanic activity and earthquakes. These ancient volcanic ruins in California created massive spiraling rocks that visitors enjoy today. Volcanic breccia-type rock tends to be a little more crumbly than granite, but that doesn't deter climbing enthusiasts from around the world.

If you're new to climbing, several local companies offer climbing lessons. All your equipment will be included when you book a tour, so it's a great way to try climbing for the first time. Adventure Out has a tremendous full-day rock climbing tour with hiking and climbing lessons for about $160 per person. A few popular climbing routes for beginners at Pinnacles National Park include "Tourist Trap," "Discovery Wall," "Monolith," and "Elephant Rock."

Intermediate to advanced climbers have even more options to enjoy during a trip to Pinnacles. "Jorgie's Crack" is one of the park's famous crack climbs, located on the east side. "The Shaft" takes climbers up a gorgeous 80-foot pinnacle. "Cuidado!" is one of the park's most challenging climbs, perfect for advanced climbers. "Discovery Wall" has routes for all levels, so it's an excellent place to set up for a day of climbing if you're in a group with different levels of climbing experience. You can climb at Pinnacles National Park throughout the year, but spring, autumn, and winter offer the best conditions. Summer is often too hot, and climbers risk dangers like heat stroke and dehydration.

Planning your trip

If you plan on flying to California to reach Pinnacles National Park, the closest airport is Monterey Airport, just 38 miles away. Monterey Airport only offers regional flights, so you may have better luck booking a flight to the nearby San Jose, Oakland, or San Francisco international airports. You'll be able to drive to Pinnacles National Park in under three hours from one of these destinations. Basic economy car rentals in San Francisco start at about $20 a day.

If you want to immerse yourself in the natural beauty during your trip, the best place to stay is Pinnacles Campground, located within the park. There are tent camping and RV sites available. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring, and RV sites equipped with electrical hookups. There is a swimming pool during the summer months and a camp store in case you forget an essential camping item at home. Bathrooms and coin-operated showers are available for guests. If you want to avoid packing your gear, a few tent cabins are also available for rent in the campground. For prices and reservations, visit the website.

For luxurious accommodations near Pinnacles National Park, check out the Inn at the Pinnacles, which offers spacious suites within a five-minute drive of the park. The Mediterranean-style architecture of the inn blends perfectly with the expansive vineyard surrounding it. Make sure to enjoy a glass of wine or two after a long day of rock climbing at Pinnacles.