Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pinnacles National Park and Big Sur, California

Breakfast in Hollister
Hollister Hog Rally
During the fourth of July of 2014, I flew from JFK to San Francisco International Airport direct via Jet Blue to spend the weekend in Pinnacles National Park and Big Sur. I arrived in San Francisco late Friday night and spent the night at my friend's apartment in the Dogpatch neighborhood in the city. On Saturday morning, we woke up early and drove approximately two hours to Pinnacles National Park, currently our nation's newest national parks. The drive to Pinnacles is nothing special. The most exciting part was stoping at a diner in Hollister for lunch. Interestingly there are two Hollisters in California, and the one we stopped at is not the one known for surfing. It is known, however, for a Fourth of July hog rally (which we did not participate in). 
Heat warning in Pinnacles
After stopping for lunch, we arrived in Pinnacles and were greeted by a number of signs warning us of the dangers of heat stroke. Undeterred, we asked the ranger for a hiking recommendation and hiked to Balconies Cave. Pinnacles is known for its rock spires and caves, though its caves are not as impressive as the caves I visited in Mammoth Cave National Park or Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Despite the heat, the hike was a pleasant way to spend the day (and it was quite cool in the caves; bring flashlights). After hiking all day, we drove about an hour and 45 minutes to the Big Sur Lodge in Pfeiffer State Park, stopping at a biker bar for dinner along the way.
In the cave at Pinnacles National Park

Big Sur Lodge was great - our cabin was a two bedroom cabin that comfortably slept four and could have slept even more. (It had a king size bed, a queen bed, and two single beds.) The cabin overlooked the pool and had a nice deck. The restaurant at the lodge was wonderful - for both breakfast and dinner. 
Enjoying our cabin at Big Sur Lodge
Our cabin at Big Sur Lodge
We spent our second day exploring Big Sur. We spent the day hiking near the hotel via the trail to Pfeiffer Falls. After this hike, we had lunch at Nepenthe Restaurant, where the views were amazing. After lunch, we enjoyed tanning and relaxing at Pfeiffer Beach. When we had enough of the beach, we traded the beach for the river, where we had some delicious Northern California wine while sitting in lawn chairs in the river at Big Sur River Inn. We enjoyed dinner at our hotel - and some late night swimming before retiring for the night.
Enjoying the river
Hiking to Pfeiffer Falls

Enjoying dinner at the Big Sur Lodge
We spent the last day of the holiday weekend in Santa Cruz trying out stand-up paddle boarding. The paddle boarding was a great way to explore the water. We saw a lot of seals while paddle boarding. The stand up paddle boarding was a lot harder than I thought it would be though. After paddle boarding, we drove back to the city (after stopping at Dairy Queen), where I took a red-eye back to New York. (I need to make it back to Santa Cruz to explore the boardwalk, beaches and UC Santa Cruz.)

All in all, a great trip, though Big Sur eclipsed Pinnacles National Park in terms of impressiveness. Big Sur should be on everyone's must-do travel list!

Pfeiffer Beach

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