Trona Pinnacles: A National Natural Landmark

The Trona Pinnacles, about 25 minutes East of Ridgecrest, in the middle of nowhere are really one of those places that have to be seen. Like the Alabama Hills it is hard to do justice to the sheer beauty of these massive rock structures that jot this landscape that is almost completely barren and flat.

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Just the drive alone on this small dirt road that crosses over a few train tracks, showcases how crazy it is that these massive calcium carbonate rocks could have been underwater thousands of years ago. After a successful summit of Telescope Peak in Death Valley, my friend Zac and I figured we needed to stop here for a little exploration, and here is my review.

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Details

  • Free to visit
  • Need car that can take five miles of washboard road
  • Camping is allowed in designated areas
  • Pit toilet by the pinnacles
  • Can be over 110 degrees in the summer

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History and Geology

The unusual landscape consists of more than 500 tufa spires, like those found in Mono Lake. Some of the Tufas are as high as 140 feet, rising from the bed of the dry Searles Lake basin. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate.

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According to BLM Geologically the pinnacles are classified into four general shapes – towers, tombstones, ridges, and cones:

  • Towers are taller than they are wide and rise 30 to 40 feet.  Look for pointed, rounded, or flat summits.
  • Tombstones are stubby and squat and rise 20 to 30 feet.
  • Ridges are massive, toothy, and tufa runs.  Trona Pinnacles has three ridges.  One ridge is 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.

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Trona Pinnacles

When we arrived at the pinnacles it was the end of August and it really was hot. I can say without a doubt that if you are going you need to bring water, and you may not even want to go in the summer months because of this. We were the only people at the Pinnacles when we arrived, so that added to a lot of cool pictures with just us and the bleak landscape. Heres an upclose look at the make up of a pinnacle.

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We climbed around on the pinnacles for a while just exploring them and I saw a few that stuck out to me. The first was this one which had created a almost perfect arch just by falling over.

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The second was this pinnacle that had a small cave built into it. I am not sure why other than it may be one of the only escapes during the heat.

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Lastly I loved this view of a lone pinnacle in the middle of a circle made by tire tracks.

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Movies Filmed at the Trona Pinnacles

Another interesting note is that over thirty film projects a year are shot at the Trona Pinnacles. Included in this number are car commercials, sci-fi movies and television series such as Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Disney’s Dinosaur, Lost in Space, and Planet of the Apes.

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All in all the Trona Pinnacles are a really unique place to explore. If you make your way out there though make sure you pack out what you bring in. We do not need an area like this to be destroyed by trash and graffiti. If you want to check it out you can get directions or leave me a comment below.

Get Directions

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About JoshMc

Thanks for checking out the blog, I am happy to be sharing my adventures with you! You can get to know me by reading my about me, which includes a video and additional information on the site, myself and my full disclosure. Also, follow along on Twitter here or read all of my posts on this blog here.

  • Awesome video thanks for sharing! I have a system like that too but haven’t been able to create a video like the one you made!

    • Bo

      Thank you Sir. If you want to mess with it, just speak up, most quads can shoot great video. a big part of it is how you fly it.

  • Geronimo’s Mama

    Thanks for this! Did you see any motels, homes or diners near or in the surrounding areas?

    • Um, the town of Trona is nearby, but there really is not a lot there other then a big production plant and one gas station. I didn’t spend much time there though just drove through.

      • rdm24

        That town leaves an impression on you…. I needed gas, but decided to push on for Ridgecrest instead…

  • Kellie Zhao

    Hey Josh,

    A few friends and I were thinking to visit, and I was wondering, would we need to bring a tent or is it possible to park our cars nearby and just sleep in there? I wasnt sure how much of the area is accessible by car versus by hiking. Thanks for any help you can provide!

    • I would assume that you could just sleep in your car when you are out there but I am not 100% sure.

  • Gloria

    The pinnacles was a great place to play when we were growing up.

  • patternflyer

    Fabulous drone footage!