Have you ever been to the Trona Pinnacles? A truly unique destination in Trona, California, this stop along the way to Death Valley is eerily recognizable. It was the filming spot of choice for the producers of many early science fiction movies and show, including The Planet of the Apes and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
My family made the inadvisable choice to make our trek there in the summertime and the temperatures hit 116 degrees that day. I don’t recommend it. Better to plan your visit during Winter, Spring or Fall timeframes.
The drive to the Pinnacles is a five mile ride along a dirt road located off St 178. The sights are amazing and absolutely worth the ride. A geologic wonder right in the California Desert – more than 500 tufa (calcium carbonate) pinnacles rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. The tufa spires, some as tall as 140 feet, were formed underwater up to 100,000 years ago when the Searles Lake formed a link in an interconnected chain of Pleistocene lakes stretching from Mono Lake to Death Valley.
Check out the BLM site for cool travel advice, it is here we found this useful direction on tufa formations to look for around the site.
– Towers are taller than they are wide. Rising 30-40 feet, you should look for their pointed, rounded or flat summits.
– Tombstones are stubby and squat and rise to a mere 20-30 feet.
– The ridges are massive, toothy and tufa runs. The Trona Pinnacles has three ridges – one ridge measures in at 800 feet long, 500 feet wide and 140 feet tall.
– Cones are less than 10 feet tall. Dumpy and mounded cone shapes lay scattered throughout the Trona Pinnacles.
The site is a designated National Landmark, so make sure to tread lightly and carry out what you bring in so that future generations can enjoy this place. Camping is permitted, but we chose the day trip option. You will feel like you are in the middle of nowhere – enjoy the natural beauty and savor the silence.
Our Trip Tips
1) Bring water, lots of water and snacks.
2) Avoid visiting in the summer months.
3) Take a vehicle able to comfortably navigate dirt roads.
4) Dress to hike (hat, sunglasses, comfortable shoes, sunblock).
5) Visit the Trona Pinnacle website before your visit for directions and more tips.
6) Pack the camera. Tons of photo opportunities.
7) One bathroom is available at the Pinnacles.