Dog friendly Pinnacles National Park road trip

We recently did a road trip including visiting the Redwood National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park and Pinnacles National Park with our two dogs. Focusing on our road trip portion of Pinnacles National Park, if you want to see more info on this overall trip and other parks click below.

How we got here, our road trip broken down…

Dog friendly Pinnacles Volcanic National Park

From Lassen volcanic national park we went to Pinnacles with the dogs. We didn’t plan to end up going to Pinnacles National Park but we ended up there and I was thrilled to check another park off my list.

After our trip to Lassen Volcanic national park didn’t go as planned we charged course and ended up Pinnacles NP with our two dogs. We spent one day at Pinnacles and were able to see both sides of the park (you can not drive through the park to both sides – more on that below).

From Pinnacles we drove to Carmel and spent a full day and one night there before heading home to Los Angeles, CA.


Where to stay for Pinnacles National Park

There isn’t a huge town located near Pinnacles National park so hotel choices were limited. While there are some motels on the outskirts, Pinnacles National Park is located near a lot of farming towns that don’t have much else besides farming. We ended up staying in Salinas at the Courtyard by Marriott Salinas Monterey, this is about an hour drive to the Pinnacles west entrance, we did end up going to the East entrance of the park as well which is a little further drive.

Courtyard by Marriott Salinas allows dogs and cats only, 2 per room, up to 75 lbs per pet. Pets are allowed for an extra charge of USD $100.00 per accommodation, per stay. It wasn’t a fancy hotel but was easy to get to, convenient, clean, quiet and had a safe grassy area to walk the dogs. The hotel has a pool, easy parking, and a small restaurant. We didn’t use any of those amenities besides the pet friendly option. Although this hotel is a bit further drive from the National Park it is located in a town, Salinas, with restaurants, markets etc should you need to pick up anything.

Food recommendation

Altura Lounge and Bistro

I wish I had a list of all the amazing food we had in Salinas but honestly it was slim picking. We found once place we loved, we loved it so much we went back twice – Altura Lounge and Bistro. An Italian restaurant with delicious food and Italian coke.

Note, one of the two nights there was live music that was really loud and we opted to sit outside and it was lovely.


Visiting Pinnacles National Park – What to know

Pinnacles National Park is the newest California park to be added to National Parks, added in 2013. Technically the San Andreas Fault Zone sits just east of Pinnacles National Park but it is solely responsible for how Pinnacles National Park got here.

Pinnacles national Park has two entrances, once on the west and one of the east. The east side is the more commonly visited side – the west entrance isn’t accessible to large RV’s or buses. The two entrances do not connect via car, you have to exit the park and drive all the way around should you want to visit the other side – we did manage to visit both and it was about an hour drive from one side to the other.

There are no hotels or restaurants inside Pinnacles national park. The Pinnacles Campground Store on the east side offers a small selection of food for purchase as well as other items like shirts, books and snacks but if you’re looking to eat lunch I would pick up in advance and bring it with you as food is really limited in and surrounded the park.

The east entrance (most popular) will be close to Bear Gulch Cave, Chalone Peak Trail, High Peaks Trail as well as the campground and general store.

The west entrance has Balconies Cave, Jawbone Trail and High Peaks Trail.

No park reservations are needed to visit Pinnacles National Park

We ended up visiting both sides, the west side is a lot less busy and the less popular side. If you don’t have your dogs with you both entrances have a hike through caves which can be a fun experience (note, bring headlamps if you are hiking the caves).


How dog friendly is Pinnacles National Park?

Well to be honest Pinnacles National Park was not dog friendly at all. So where can dogs go at Pinnacles National Park? Dogs visiting Pinnacles must be leashed and are only allowed on roads, at the campgrounds and at picnic areas; with few exceptions and are not allowed on any of the trails.

Overall, Pinnacles National Park is one of the least dog-friendly national parks we have visited thus far in our travels. You might want to contact your favorite pet sitter before making plans to visit Pinnacles National Park.

Generally when we visit National Parks we drive around the parks and stop at overlooks with the pups, unfortunately at Pinnacles there isn’t much driving around and there are no stunning overlooks to pull off at to enjoy with your dog.

Where dogs are allowed in Pinnacles National Park:

On paved roads, parking lots, campgrounds and at picnic areas. You can make campground reservations for Pinnacles here.

Campgrounds and picnic areas at Pinnacles:

  1. The Pinnacles Visitor Center
  2. Bear Gulch Picnic Area on the east side
  3. Chaparral Picnic Area on the west side

From the Bear Gulch picnic area you can follow a flat and short, but nice trail to the Bacon Ranch Homestead for your dogs to stretch their legs.

Where dogs are not allowed at Pinnacles National Park:

Dogs are not allowed on all trails, on the shuttle or in any buildings such as visitor centers or the Bear Gulch Nature Center.

Travel Essentials

Travel water bottle

Sleepypod travle bowl

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Odor resistant water repellant leash

Freeze dried treats

Outdoor camping mat

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Overall Pinnacles was a small and gorgeous park with some fun hikes with caves (not dog friendly) but unfortunately was not very dog friendly overall, while they enjoyed the walk around the campgrounds that was about it and not a ton they can do here. There is very limited driving around the park, but if you want to check it off your list it’s worth seeing.

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