Environment / Nature

Pinnacles National Park busy during pandemic

It’s open for day use and camping.
Road to Bear Gulch is closed.
Road to Bear Gulch is closed.
John of San Luis Obispo powering down.
John of San Luis Obispo powering down.
Camping in style.
Camping in style.
Acorn Woodpecker.
Acorn Woodpecker.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, getting away can be difficult with many parks and beaches closed or partly closed. Pinnacles National Park is open for business, but in a modified fashion. 

BenitoLink spoke with campers and day use visitors at the park on Aug. 13. John and Susan (who did not give their last names) from San Luis Obispo County had been there since the start of August and expected to leave on the 15th. John, a frequent visitor, said they “come here to power down.” He said that he had taken a few short hikes and was happy to see people following COVID-19 safety protocols.

“People on the trails and around the campground are wearing masks and keeping distance,” he said. He likes the visitors at Pinnacles because he said they respect nature and are there to visit the natural world. 

Grant Cunningham, owner and manager of Pinnacles Recreation Co., which manages the campground and camp store on the east side of the park, said while there are empty spaces during the week, weekends are usually booked full a few months in advance. He said during the recent hot weather many people left, but otherwise they have been busy.

The campground recently upgraded its WiFi system and it is now available throughout the area. Cunningham said that before the last school year ended many families in the campground also had kids who were distance learning, and others were logging in to work from the park. He expects to see the same happen after Labor Day when the heat starts to subside and visitors are back in force.

“Camping in general has seen an uptick all over the country because they are not traveling internationally and are flying less,” Cunningham said.

Day visitors Jane Packard of Los Altos Hills and her friends John Grafton and Olga Herbert of San Juan Bautista were picnicking near the visitor center after hiking to Bear Gulch. None had been to the national park before and all had “a great time” according to Packard. 

“There is so much wildlife to see,” said Packard, listing several deer, an acorn woodpecker and brown creepers as some of the visual prizes of the day.

Pinnacles Recreation has also installed cabins at several of the camping sites which Cunningham said are “ideal for people who have never camped before and don’t have camping equipment.” Each hut has a queen bed, two single beds and basic furniture. Visitors will need to bring their own bedding. Cunningham is not sure when they will be ready, but said it should be soon. 

The road going to Bear Gulch remains closed at this time. Visitors can hike or bicycle to Bear Gulch and other trails beyond the visitor’s center and campground, and admission remains free. According to the Pinnacles National Park Facebook page, they have remained open while on fire watch and red flag days. They also advised visitors to remain aware of the air quality which could become dangerous again if smoke moves back in. 

 

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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.