Trona Pinnacles, California
The Trona Pinnacles are a National Natural Landmark managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The pinnacles are tufa spires similar to, but much taller than the ones on the shore of Mono Lake. They are towers of mineral deposits left by hot springs that bubbled up along the shore of the now dry Searles Lake. The pinnacles reach heights of as much as 140 feet.
The geology of the pinnacles is interesting and they do have a strange beauty however in and of themselves they might not be worth the trip. The landscape around the pinnacles is what truly amazed me. The setting of the pinnacles and the way that the land is managed are unique. It is the most desolate other-worldly place I've ever been. The pinnacles rise out of a vast mountain ringed dry lake bed. And it's not just the utterly desolate landscape surrounding the pinnacles that makes this place feel desolate. The fact that there are no park staff and few visitors and that the post apocalyptic town of Trona with it's smoke spewing chemical plant can be seen on the far horizon add to the sense that you are no longer on any earth you are familiar with.
As a bonus it's okay to camp anywhere you want and camping is free. The 6 mile gravel road from CA 178 to the pinnacles gets a little rough towards the end. I was kind of concerned about some very sharp looking rocks on the last climb but I made it okay in a compact car. There are no services, water, or facilities of any kind in the pinnacles. There is at least one informational sign. The night I was there, I found a nice spot to park, I walked around for a while and set up my tent next to my car at sundown. Only one other camper spent the night that night and they were at least a mile away. This was in late march.
I would highly recommend a visit to the pinnacles and especially an overnight stay. It's unlike any other place I know of that can be accessed with a two wheel drive car. Nearby Trona is also worth visiting.
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