Home » 2019 Superbloom

Trona Pinnacles, CA

Friday, April 5, 2019 - 4:15pm by Lolo
111 miles and 2.25 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Lolo approaching a large pinnacleLolo approaching a large pinnacleHerb had been to Trona Pinnacles on a solo trip last year and had ever since been anxious to bring me there to see its uniqueness and stark beauty. I think it was pretty sweet that he wanted to share his experience with me.

It is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, 20 miles from the nearest town and reached via a 5-mile, BLM dirt road that leads you to a lunar-like landscape of more than 500 tufa spires, of varying shapes and sizes, some as high as 140 feet, rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin.

Like the Mono Lake tufa towers, another one of Herb’s favorite barren and desolate otherworldly spots, the crumbling towers around us were also made of calcium carbonate and had been formed thousands of years ago underwater. Now with the lake long dried up, they sit isolated, surrounded by miles of dried mud and mountain ranges.

Golden hour at Trona PinnaclesGolden hour at Trona PinnaclesAs I mentioned in the previous stop, there couldn’t have been a starker contrast between the landscape and experience of being at of Trona Pinnacles and that of Antelope Valley - desolate vs. crowded, sharp rocky spires vs gente rolling hills, monochromatic grays and browns vs. the vibrant hues of the flowers. It is these differences that makes each of these places more special, and travel more interesting.

Dispersed camping is allowed in designated areas at the Pinnacles, and there is a pit toilet. Other than that there’s just sand and rocks.

When we arrived, we were the only ones there, so we had our choice of campsites - and I use the term “campsite” loosely. Herb decided to position ourselves where we would get the best view of the spires in the evening light.

Golden hour at Trona PinnaclesGolden hour at Trona PinnaclesAlthough the landscape was interesting and photogenic during the day, it really came into its own when the sun began to set behind us, lighting up the ski behind the spires in fabulous pastel pinks and blues..

Being the good photo assistant I am, I made the trek across the dried mud to the spires, wearing my bright red jacket, so Herb could get an object in his photos (that’s me) to give a sense of scale. Some of the best photos of me are tiny little dots in a beautiful landscape.

The next morning our spires were silhouetted against the rising sun, but the rocks behind us were now lit up underneath another beautiful pink and blue sky.

Great stop, but really only a one-nighter, so on to Death Valley!


Golden hour at Trona PinnaclesGolden hour at Trona PinnaclesThe Trona Pinnacles are a unique geological formation in the California Desert National Conservation Area, approximately 20 miles east of the town of Ridgecrest, California. Getting there requires driving along a 5-mile, BLM dirt road (RM143) that is usually accessible in a 2WD vehicle.

The lunar-like landscape consists of more than 500 tufa (calcium carbonate) spires, of varying shapes and sizes, some as high as 140 feet, rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. Once underwater thousands of years ago, the crumbling towers now sit isolated, surrounded by miles of dried mud and stark mountain ranges.

The pinnacles are classified into four general shapes:

  • Towers - 30 to 40 feet high with pointed, rounded, or flat summits
  • Tombstones - 20 to 30 feet high and more stubby and squat
  • Cones - less than 10 feet high
  • Ridges - massive, toothy, and tufa runs. One ridge in Trona is 800 feet long, 500 feet wide and 140 feet tall.

Lolo playing on Trona PinnaclesLolo playing on Trona PinnaclesThe best time to view and photograph the pinnacles is at sunrise or sunset.

Over 30 movies, TV shows, and commercials were filmed in this start and eerie setting, including Lost in Space, Planet of the Apes, and Star Trek V.

As with most BLM land, there is free dispersed camping in designated areas and a pit toilet.

Trona Pinnacles location map in "high definition"

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