When you’re standing in Pinnacles National Park, you’re really not standing still. The earth beneath you is gradually moving north, at the pace of about an inch a year.
This is the San Andreas fault, a 600-mile long gap between two of the planet’s tectonic plates. The Pacific plate has been grinding past the North American plate for about 20 million years.
Just before these two chunks of the earth’s crust met, the Pinnacles Volcano was born. It once rose 8,000 feet in the air from a spot about 195 miles due south. Then it got caught up in the tectonic shift and the walls of the volcano crumbled.
The remains of the volcano are the rock formations you hike past at Pinnacles National Park. Some of the walls cracked apart into towering rock spires, while others collapsed into talus caves.
Whether you choose the adventurous High Peaks Trail, the less grueling Balconies Cliffs Trail, or any of the 30 other trails through the park, you’ll see constant evidence of nature in action. Everything you see is constantly moving and changing.
That includes the birds, bats, and bees that inhabit the park. Pinnacles National Park is home to the endangered California condor and harbors two bat caves and more than 400 species of bees.