Pinnacles National Monument becomes America's 59th National Park

Hikers at Pinnacle National Monument. Source: NPS.gov.President Obama has signed legislation to elevate Pinnacles National Monument to become Pinnacles National Park, making it America's 59th national park.

Rising out of the Gabilan Mountains east of central California's Salinas Valley, Pinnacles is the result of millions of years of erosion, faulting and tectonic plate movement. Within the park's boundaries lie nearly 27,000 acres of diverse wild lands. Visitors delight in the beauty and variety of its spring wildflowers and more than 400 species of native bees. The Pinnacles rock formations are a popular destination to challenge technical and beginner climbers alike.

Designated as a national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the park’s management will not change by the legislation. The Pinnacles National Park Act recognizes the broader significance of park resources, specifically the chaparral, grasslands, blue oak woodlands, and majestic valley oak savanna ecosystems of the area, the area's geomorphology, riparian watersheds, unique flora and fauna, and the ancestral and cultural history of native Americans, settlers and explorers.

Pinnacles National Park is also well known as an incubator of America’s fragile population of California Condors. It is one of three condor release sites in the country, and the only release site in a national park. Pinnacles has been a partner of the California Condor Recovery Program since 2003. The park manages 31 free-flying condors. Each bird is monitored after its release to increase its chances of survival. Park biologists and volunteers monitor chicks hatched in the wild. They check blood and feather samples for signs of poisoning from ingestion of lead-contaminated food. They also monitor condors to aid research about their habitat and movement.

In addition to changing the park’s status from national monument to national park, the legislation names the park’s 16,000 acres of wilderness as the Hain Wilderness. The name honors Schuyler Hain who was an 1891 homesteader from Michigan. Within 20 years he became known as the "Father of Pinnacles" leading tours up through Bear Valley and into the caves. Hain spoke to groups and wrote articles urging preservation of the area and acted as unofficial caretaker for many years. His efforts proved fruitful with the establishment of Pinnacles as a 2,500-acre national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

The rock formations of Pinnacles National Monument and the Gabilan Mountain Range divide the park into East and West Districts which are connected by trails, but not by a vehicle road. More than 30 miles of trails access geological formations, spectacular vistas and wildland communities. Pinnacles National Park is a day-use park, with occasional full moon hikes and dark sky astronomical observations led by ranger-interpreters.

Image: Hikers at Pinnacle National Monument. Source: NPS.gov.