Frequently Asked Questions about Field Trips

What do I do if our school is late or we enter the wrong side of the park?
All educational programming begins at 10:30AM. Impeding on the program start time results in a shorter or modified program. If a group has a time-related problem, Please call the Pinnacles Visitor Center at 831-389-4485 to inform the ranger on duty.

If a school group has arrived to the wrong side of the Park or if we have not heard a travel status update from a group by 11:15AM (45-minutes after the designated start time), the program will be canceled.

What if the weather is bad or there's just been an unforeseen natural disaster, should we cancel our educational field trip to Pinnacles?
Park Rangers will lead outdoor activities rain or shine, unless there is an extraordinary weather event or natural disaster. Please call the Pinnacles Visitor Center at 831-389-4485 to inform us of a desire to cancel.

Groups may ask to speak with the Education Specialist to inquire about rescheduling and other programming options available.

How many adults should accompany the students on the educational field trip to Pinnacles?
To ensure a safe day of educational activities, schools need to provide at least a 1:10 adult to student ratio. Please plan accordingly to ensure there are enough adults to accompany the students. The program may be canceled if there is not at least 1 adult for every 10 students.

As a teacher, what should I suggest to parents and students to bring on their trip to Pinnacles?
Each student, teacher and chaperone that participates in an educational program at Pinnacles should each have at least 1-liter of water for a typical 2-mile round trip hike. For a longer hike, each individual should have 1-liter of water for each additional mile. This is especially a concern during the summer months when daily temperatures exceed 100°.

Each student, teacher, and chaperone should have closed-toe hiking shoes, such as sneakers or boots; Sandals are not proper hiking shoes. Everyone attending the trip should also be prepared with the proper clothing given the season. The weather at Pinnacles is unpredictable and can change frequently throughout the day. Teachers may call 831-389-4485 to receive a weather update for the week. To help teachers prepare all those that will be attending an educational program, an Educator's Preparation Guide will be sent to each school group.

What if a medical emergency occurs during our educational field trip at Pinnacles?
The staff at Pinnacles National Park have been trained and certified to handle medical, fire, earthquake, and search and rescue emergencies. If an emergency should occur, the park ranger leading the group will immediately notify park dispatch via radio and take any necessary action.

What kind of educational programs does Pinnacles offer?
Currently, Pinnacles offers Parks-as-Classrooms activities which meet the educational standards set by the state of California. Programs cater to grades K - 12. If you do not wish to take part in a Ranger-led tour, you may also schedule a one day Teacher-led visit.

How do I schedule an educational program at Pinnacles?
Educators may schedule a program and/or apply for a educational fee waiver at Pinnacles by downloading the Educational Program/Fee Waiver Request form. Accredited schools of the State of California with educational plans or objectives for visiting the park will have their entrance fee waived. When completed, mail or fax the form back to the address or fax number indicated on the form.

How far in advance should I schedule an educational program at Pinnacles?
The Educational Program Request and Application for Educational Waiver of Fees must be received via fax or post at least 2 months in advance of the date of the school visit. Programs scheduled within 2 months of a desired date may only be available for a Teacher-led visit.

What is the best time of year to visit Pinnacles?
Pinnacles is a beautiful place to visit anytime of year. There is always some type of vegetation to examine and discover at Pinnacles, regardless of the season. The most popular time of year is March and April when average high temperatures range from mid 60s to mid 70s. The least popular time of year is December - February when the average high temperatures range from low 50s - mid 60s and rain is more prevalent.

How many students can the trail accommodate?
The size of your group must be limited to no more than 35 people on the trail. Groups that consist of more than 35 people may cause negative impacts to the trails and park resources. Most of the trails at Pinnacles are narrow, which makes it difficult to effectively discuss educational concepts to large groups while hiking. Large class sizes may still visit the park given that the class can be broken into smaller groups. In order to comply with this policy, please plan accordingly.

What trails will the students be hiking on while at Pinnacles?
If the students are visiting on the east side of the park, they will most likely hike the Moses Spring/Rim Trail Loop. This trail loop is considered to be moderate hike and is approximately 2 miles long. Other trails accessible from the east side of the park are the Condor Gulch, Bear Gulch Caves, and Chalone Peak Trails.

If the students are visiting on the west side of the park, they will most likely hike the Balconies Trail. This trail is considered to be a moderate hike and is approximately .6 mile. It connects with the Balconies Cliffs and Balconies Cave Trails for a 1.2 mile loop. Other trails accessible from the west side of the park are the Juniper Canyon , Tunnel, and High Peaks Trails.

Before visiting Pinnacles, the Education Specialist will discuss which trail they will be leading the students on when they come to the park.

Will my school group be able to enter and go through the caves?
There are two talus caves at Pinnacles National Park. If interested in experiencing either of these caves, flashlights are required! The Bear Gulch Cave is on the east side of the park and the Balconies Cave on the west side of the park. Since the discovery of a maternity colony of the endangered Townsend Big-eared bats in 1997, the Bear Gulch Cave is only open seasonally. The Balconies Cave is open year round for visitor exploration, but may be closed periodically because of flooding.

I want my class to experience the Bear Gulch Cave. When is the best time to schedule a program so that we may be able to walk through the entire cave?
This is a difficult question to answer because the schedule of cave openings and closings depends primarily on the population and behavior of a protected colony of Townsend Big-eared bats. If you would like the class to experience the cave while it is completely open, you will probably want to plan your visit at the end of March or October. However, there is no guarantee that these times will coincide with the tenancies of the Townsend Big-eared bats.

How do I familiarize myself with the trails my students will be hiking during their educational field trip at Pinnacles?
The best way to become familiar with the trails at Pinnacles is to visit the park and hike the trails the students will be hiking on personal time. However, if this is not an option, teachers can become familiar with the trails their students will be hiking by reading detailed trail descriptions.

Is it possible to camp at Pinnacles National Park?
Yes, the Pinnacles Campground is located on the East side of the Pinnacles National Park, off Highway 25 from Hollister (North) or from King City (South). Tent, RV, and group sites are available. To make reservations, go to or call (831) 389-4538.

Can rocks, pine cones, or other park resources be taken out of the park for educational purposes or for souvenirs?
Pinnacles National Park protects these resources for the enjoyment of future generations. Students, teachers, and chaperones are permitted to take pictures, but are not permitted to take park resources for any reason.

If a pilot car is provided by the park for buses entering the west side, where will the bus meet the pilot car?
The bus will meet the pilot car on Hwy 146. It will be easily recognizable as the pilot car because it will be parked on the side of the highway waiting for the bus and have a yellow flashing light on top of the car.

For more information, please call us at (831) 389-4486 x262.


Last updated: November 6, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

5000 Highway 146
Paicines, CA 95043


(831) 389-4486
To contact the Pinnacles Campground, please call (831) 389-4538.

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