Trails to Trudge: Trona Pinnacles

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Trona Pinnacles

  • Length: undetermined/at your leisure
  • Terrain: hot, dry, desert.  Please note: Very rocky and tumultuous road going into the pinnacles where a high clearance vehicle is recommended but not necessarily needed.
  • Payoff: Gorgeous and unique “pinnacles” shooting out from the desert floor hundreds of feet in the air.

The Trona Pinnacles are without a doubt one of the most bizarre and visually stunning places I’ve been to. Sitting in the middle of nowhere (the closest city is that of Ridgecrest, CA), the pinnacles appear to rise out of the desert as you drive down the 178 freeway.  It’s an eerie experience and the whole area looks like something out of a Sci-Fi movie (of which many have been filmed here)…

Tyler and I rolled up to Trona late in the afternoon.  We drove Tyler’s Volkswagen Golf, of which it must be said, performed admirably.  It was a bumpy ride but eventually we made into the heart of the pinnacles…

E05194B8-AEDD-4583-A21B-1B34D0A9D557133C315D-08D7-43B8-881E-DF1374EC1AAETrona is part of the Bureau of Land Management which means you can camp here but it is not setup like a “normal” campsite.  Ie: There are no marked sites with tables and fire pits; you fend for yourself and find your own spot.  Tyler and I found a nice area within a bowl of pinnacles (see pic below) that shielded us reasonably well from the insane winds that were whipping through the area…

1ACEB0A7-99EA-462F-8FDC-6858DB1E6FDFAfter establishing camp, we settled in our site for a long, cold, windy night as the sun went down.  As it slowly descended, the sky turned a beautiful purple/orange hue that I tried to capture in a picture (see below) but the technical limitations on my iPhone just couldn’t do it justice…B1C3E33D-CE06-4A26-8C60-DBA6B108056C95EC6C61-10C1-4D38-AFD0-6549D9E7BF77Once night fell, it seemed like the winds only picked up instead of decreasing.  Tyler and I began the process of fighting nature to light our fire and stove.  It was difficult and it was cold but eventually, we were able to build a raging fire and cook our New Year’s Eve meal of chili dogs and beans.  Although the weather was miserable, I still look back on that campsite fondly.  Aside from a few others campers dispersed throughout the pinnacles, you feel completely alone.  The stars shine bright in the sky and the night is a true darkness of which you can’t see more than a couple feet in front of you…

Once morning came, the true beauty of the pinnacles was revealed.  The sky was a bright, clear blue that illuminated each rock column and allowed us to see the area for miles around…

2C3357A2-6359-47CA-8D07-277DA37D4F1C03771985-8B03-44DE-AC8E-BA17D375F048In conclusion, the Trona Pinnacles are a fantastically out of the way, majestically unique spot in California.  Without knowing someone who had been here, I doubt I would have ever heard of them.  Having said that, this spot is almost entirely natural with little to no human involvement.  It’s important to be clean and respectful while camping and hanging out here.

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Bonus: Ballarat Ghost Town

The eerie quiet of the Trona Pinnacles had something to do with its location.  Nestled out in the middle of nowhere…life it seems would be hard-pressed.  Before Tyler and I trudged the desert miles to the pinnacles though, we searched the desert for miles around for some sort of life.  We came across a ghost town by the name of Ballarat…

One thought on “Trails to Trudge: Trona Pinnacles

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