A 30 mph crosswind was hitting us directly out of the Eastern High Sierra as we headed south along highway 395, travel was slow going.
Again it was our good fortune to be traveling with our Alaskan friends, Brad and Brenda.
This being their first time camping remotely in the open desert we decide to visit an area that was new to all of us.
Our destination was the Trona Pinnacles.
A barren and mysterious landscape situated at the north-east corner of San Bernardino County, sits the Searles Dry Lake and the Trona Pinnacles. This area is often referred to as “the middle of nowhere”.
The pinnacles became a National Landmark in 1968 and are located on the south end of Searles Dry Lake.
As we turned off of Hwy 178 east of Ridgecrest we could see the pinnacles in the distance. Following a potholed gravel road for 5 miles we finally arrived in a very strange and unearthly looking landscape.
And what a strange sight it was. Unlike the Mono Lake Tufas these formations are much larger and more spire like.
It felt like we had just driven onto the set of the “Lost In Space Movie”…. actually we had! Dozens of major movies have been filmed here with the pinnacles used as the backdrop.
A few miles further north on Hwy. 178 is the town of Trona. It was established in 1913 when John W. Searles and his brother Dennis first discovered the crusty dried up lake in 1862 while searching in the Panamint Mountains for gold.
The pinnacles are some of the the best examples of tufa formations found anywhere in the United States. The formations were formed underwater between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago.
Within the protected area are more than 500 spires. The porous rock formed as a deposit when bubbling springs interacted with other bodies of water.
Some are as high as 140 feet and rise sharply from the bed of Searles Dry Lake.
With no designated camping areas we could park anywhere we wanted. Most of the local roads that weave in and around the formations were narrow and steep so we just parked in the main parking lot, basically a large level gravel pad.
The Searles Valley Mineral Company, located on the north end of the dry lake, produces borax, boric acid, soda ash, soda cake and salt. They operate the Trona railway which passes near the western edge of the pinnacles.
We spent our days wandering around the pinnacles, hiking, photographing and marveling at these ancient monoliths.
In the evenings we lounged around the fire enjoying red wine, eating aged cheese, stargazing and listening to coyotes howl.
All the while the big dogs had their freedom to run around the pinnacles in the dark which they really enjoyed.
It just doesn’t get any better…
The morning we were to depart Brad awoke to find a flat tire on the rear of his motorhome. This would have not been a problem but the coach was a loaner and no jack had been supplied.
It was decided to call AAA but Brad, Brenda and I all had AT&T phones with “no service” signals. Denise came to the rescue with her 3 bars of Verizon and within 2 hours the service truck arrived.
After a quick tire repair in Ridgecrest, we were on our way again to our next destination…
Hope you enjoy our latest video “The Pinnacles Of Trona”.
We all really enjoyed this beautiful and magical location. The freedom to wander without crowds made for an enjoyable and relaxing stay.
If you are ever on your way to Death Valley and have the time don’t miss it.
Keep you posted…
14 thoughts on “The Pinnacles Of Trona”
Absolutely loved your video, “The Pinnacles Of Trona”! I grew up in Trona and had a great childhood! The Pinnacles were part of that! At times, usually in early Spring our family and friends would go to the Pinnacles for picnics and great exploring and play time. We loved the different formations, almost like being in an old and forgotten place, or a new and unexplored area… We also had a few Easter egg hunts at the Pinnacles! Those were the very best as you can imagine!
This video brought back such great memories… It is well worth the time to explore and enjoy these incredible tufa formations again or to experience this area for the first time! You will not be disappointed!
Your pictures are great and your video with music, “The Pinnacles Of Trona” is Truly Amazing!! Thank you for such a Wonderful Presentation…
Several weeks ago a friend forwarded a link to this and “Sky Rock, Rosetta Stone, 13 Moons” as I am from Trona, born there, in fact. He knew I would be interested in this, also the picture rocks. He was there in the Owens Valley helping photographer, Francois Gohier, photograph rock art. Yes, Verizon is all that works in Trona! I get back only every few years or so. I checked your other posts, all very interesting. You and Denise have an enviable life. I too went to Alaska at a relatively young age. Not quite as adventurously as you. Did drive up in ’83. Moved out in 2011, down here to retire in the Sonoran Desert just north of Tucson, and, my husband and I love it here. Once a desert rat, always a desert rat. It will be interesting to hear about further adventures with Farther. Also, love the Burnees.
Your cool post definitely validates that we must make a return trip Trona…we had planned to spend a few days there, but after leaving Alabama Hills the winds picked up. Forecast were for 60 mph gusts, so we headed further south to Rainbow Basin…wind followed us though…strong enough to force our slide in each night. The Basin is well worth the drive out there though…plenty of hiking for your big “kids”. How cool to run into your pack? We to are heading home. Safe travel to the Dogs.
Thanks for nice comments. Sorry to hear about the winds, it was also great meeting you guys in DV. We depart Ventura area on Sunday and plan stops in Lompoc and Big Sur again. When will you guys arrive home in Cambria.
Thanks Mike glad you enjoyed it.
Another great video Tim! A great place and stunning scenery. Thank goodness Denise had verzion!
Thanks for being a part of the video, you have made the last two videos a little more spectacular! next time bring a jack 🙂
Lovely! Never heard of this spot so will need to check it out next time I’m in the state.-
Thanks Kris, I think you would really enjoy wandering the pinnacles..
“Danger Will Robinson, danger”! Yep, doesn’t get much better. This is definitely on my list 🙂
Thanks Ingrid, certainly a must see though but not much bird life, just some turkey vultures circling about.
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Thanks Tim and Denise,
It is always good to hear from you and I can see that Tim must have acquired a new drone. That video is just amazing and the music is perfect for it. That shot with the Moon on the Pinnacle is perfection.
Greetings from Gert and Joyce
PS: 1950 Buick Super is going to Sweden!
Thanks Gert! are you driving the Buick to Sweden yourself? 🙂