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Trona Pinnacles | A Wild & Unique Geologic Feature

The Trona Pinnacles are a stunning geologic feature in the California Desert Conservation Area.  The pinnacles are spires of calcium carbonate that formed tens of thousands of years ago when the land was the floor of an ancient sea.  The tight cluster of towers and spires left standing today are a marvelous geological wonder.

The Trona Pinnacles as seen from the air, photo taken by a drone.

To preserve the pinnacles, the area was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1968.  Until this day, Trona Pinnacles remains a popular destination for campers, overlanders, photographers, filmmakers, and nature enthusiasts.

Getting To The Trona Pinnacles

The Trona Pinnacles are located about 20 miles east of Ridgecrest, CA.  The area is accessed via a BLM dirt-road RM143 that branches off SR178.  The 5 miles of dirt road are typically passable with 2WD vehicles.  However, the road is subject to pretty intense washboarding.  This access is relatively straightforward for reaching a large parking area where the vault toilet is located.

Off-Road Driving

A pair of SUV's off-roading at Trona Pinnacles, Best Fridges For Off-Roading

For those wishing to explore farther with their vehicles, high-clearance and 4wd are recommended.  Stick to well-established roads and observe posted signs.  There are several dirt roads that weave throughout the nearly 14 square-mile area.  Sand, deep ruts, and sharp rocks are common.

Sightseeing The Trona Pinnacles

Exploring the sights of Trona Pinnacles are easy for people of all ages and ability.  The towers jut out of the mostly flat desert landscape and thus can be seen for miles around.  The towers and spires come in all shapes and sizes, with the tallest one topping out at 140 feet tall.  The area is especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset with a full range of colors on display.

A colorful sunset panorama at the Trona Pinnacles

Additionally, the Trona Pinnacles also make an incredible location for astrophotography.  There is very little light pollution, so with the right camera and conditions, you can get capture some great night sky photos.

Doing astrophotography at Trona Pinnacles

Hiking The Trona Pinnacles

A woman walking around the Trona Pinnacles

The hiking trails at the Trona Pinnacles are rather freeform.  No official beginning or end, but rather a web of trails that wander throughout the area.  However, for the preservation of the delicate desert ecosystem, stick to well-worn paths and avoid creating new paths.  The dirt-roads also serve as a decent way to walk around the area, as long as there aren’t too many vehicles.

Exploring on foot for even just a few minutes is the best way to experience the pinnacles up close.  And also to get away (albeit slightly) from the areas where vehicles are allowed.

Camping At The Trona Pinnacles

Camping is allowed throughout most of the area surrounding the Trona Pinnacles.  It follows typical BLM land dispersed camping rules.  There is a 14 day limit, pack-it-in, pack-it-out, no facilities, and camp in established campsites, etc.  I would try to avoid tent camping here if high winds are in the forecast.

Leave No Trace

There is a delicate balance between preservation and visitation/recreation.  The desert environment at the Trona Pinnacles is especially fragile.  So please stick to well-established roads, trails, and campsites.  And there are no trash services so pack out all trash.

From the managing agency “Vegetation in this climate can take decades to recover when crushed by off-road driving or parking.  [And] even natural items like orange peels take years to decompose.

There is only a single vault toilet on-site, with no running water or trash service.  The presence of TP is not a guarantee either, so best to bring your own.  And if you have your own portable toilet in a campervan or RV to unload off-site, that would be best.

What To Watch Out For

The Trona Pinnacles and surrounding area can be very windy and the landscape offers little protection.  The wind and subsequent blowing dust and sand can make certain activities, like tent camping, not fun!  Check the forecast beforehand.

There is also a military base nearby, so fighter jets fly overhead pretty frequently.  It’s generally not a huge problem.  But one time a jet broke the sound barrier very close to us, and it was the loudest noise I have ever heard in my life, no exaggeration.  I realize that this sounds dramatic, but the experience left us shaking and anxious anytime we hear a military plane nearby now.

Cell Service

There is limited and variable cell service.  We found the stronger signal to be typically on the north side of the pinnacles. We paired the existing cell signal with our WeBoost Cell-Signal Booster and we were able to stream movies, no problem. 


The Trona Pinnacles are a popular setting for movies, tv-series, car commercials, music videos, and more.  So you may even have seen them on screen before.  A few popular hits that feature the Trona Pinnacles are Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Planet of the Apes.

Check Out Our Favorite Nearby Attractions!

Takeaway | The Trona Pinnacles

A campervan camping at Trona Pinnacles

There are few places in the US as unique as the Trona Pinnacles.  It’s no wonder that Hollywood filmmakers are drawn to this area.  The striking landscape has captivated the minds of people for centuries.  It truly feels like another planet.  A visit to the pinnacles will surely make for an unforgettable experience among one of nature’s unique creations.

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[…] For everything else you might want to know about this area, check out our guide for the Trona Pinnacles. […]