TRONA PINNACLES is a stunning geological gem situated in the Mojave Desert within the northern part of San Bernardino County. Located a short distance from Death Valley National Park, this unique, federally protected land consists of over 3,800 acres within the Searles Dry Lake basin. Resting at approximately 1,800 feet above sea level, it's home to nearly 500 tufa spires with some towering over the peaceful desert at nearly 140 feet tall.
The Trona Pinnacles have an incredibly rich HISTORY dating back to nearly 10,000 to 100,000 years ago. These formations are made of primarily calcium carbonate (a.k.a. tufa) and formed during the Pleistocene Ice Ages when water spilled off from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The runoff from the mountain range created a labyrinth of interconnected seas spanning along the Eastern Sierras all the way up to the popular destination, Mono Lake.
Broken up into three groups, the Trona Pinnacles have been classified into three sections: the northern, middle and southern formations. The youngest formations are located in the northern groupings and date back 11,000 to 25,000 years ago. However, all of the tufa pinnacles were formed deep underwater when the Searles Lake was filled with water as deep as 660 feet -- it's hard to imagine water existing in such an extreme desert location at one point.
PRO-TIP: These are extremely fragile geological formations and the tufa pinnacles should not be climbed on. Note, the image directly above was taken while standing on the boulder seen behind the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk in the photo below.
WEATHER: This destination is located in the desert so consider visits in the cooler months versus the hot summer months to avoid heat exhaustion and extreme temperatures.
The DRIVE to the actual pinnacles can be achieved in most 2-wheel drive vehicles; however, if you're planning to visit the middle and southern formations, high clearance 4-wheel drive will definitely be needed. The ground can easily be stuck in during wet spells and could even cause 4-wheel drive vehicles to get stuck if it's too wet.
NOTE: Some cars with only 2-wheel drive made it, but it's strongly encouraged to not attempt without 4-wheel drive and high clearance.
The spectacular Trona Pinnacles is operated under the Bureau of Land Management and federally protected land, which is also known as "public land". While DISPERSED CAMPING in this area it's important to re-use the already existing fire pits that are scattered across the area and there are no fees to stay here either. Be sure to stay on the designated driving trail to avoid destroying any of the precious formations.
STAR GAZING is another exceptional opportunity to take advantage of at this epic location. With little to no light pollution, prepare yourself to see incredible stars light up the night sky during your camping trip.
PRO-TIP: It's the desert and with that comes potentially high winds. Definitely consider bringing additional stakes for your tent to really hold it down in case the winds pick up suddenly during the night or even during the day.
Have you been to Trona Pinnacles? If so, share your tips and/or suggestions below in the comments section.
Till the next adventure.
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