Location: The west side is accessible from Highway 101 near Soledad, then east along Highway 146. The East entrance is reached via Highway 25, south of Hollister, then west on Highway 146.
Hours: West gate open daily from 7:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. during Daylight Savings Time, and until 6 p.m. the rest of the year. East side open 24 hours a day.
Cost: $5 per vehicle, good for seven days on both sides of the monument; $3 walk-in fee. Annual pass $15. Information: National Park Services, 389-4485 or www.nps.gov/pinn; Friends of Pinnacles at www.pinnacles.org. Camping information at www.pinncamp.com or 389-4462
Pinnacles National Monument straddles two counties - Monterey and San Benito - and there's more than enough wonder to go around.
The spectacular monoliths, spires, canyons and caves are the result of a volcano and millions of years of tectonic movement. The Pinnacles' rocks, according to the National Park Service, are believed to be part of the Neenach Volcano that occurred 23 million years ago near what's now Lancaster in Southern California. The San Andreas Fault split the volcano and the Pacific Plate crept north, carrying what's now the Pinnacles with it. Over the years, wind and water have eroded and carved the legendary landscape, making it a playground for geologists, hikers, explorers and wildflower lovers.
It was made a national monument in 1908 and now takes in about 26,000 acres. The terrain is wide-ranging, from chaparral to grassland, from low rolling hills to tall, smooth rock faces, its elevation climbing from 824 feet to 3,304 feet.
It is home to, among others, 149 species of birds, 68 butterfly species, 49 mammals, 40 dragonflies and damselflies, 23 reptiles, six amphibians and nearly 400 bee species, the park service says.
Visitors can enter the Pinnacles from the west, or Monterey County side, or from the east, or San Benito, side; it's not possible to drive through the park from one side to the other. Most features can be seen from either side, but for those who don't hike, spectacular views can be seen from the parking lot on the west side. Be prepared when you make the trek - there aren't any concession stands in this monument.