Pinnacles National Park, California California Condors, one of the rarest birds in the world.

Pinnacles National Park, California California Condors, one of the rarest birds in the world.

Photo by: Ian Shive

Ian Shive

Caves to Condors: Uncovering Pinnacles National Park

Photographer and conservationist Ian Shive explores one of the lesser known National Parks, Pinnacles National Park, finding rare wildlife and extraordinary landscapes along the way.

April 06, 2023

California has more national parks than any other state clocking in at a whopping nine! What’s amazing is that after decades of photography in the parks, and a couple years of staying close to home because of the pandemic, you would think that I would’ve gotten to all of them many times. but the truth is that one has eluded me since it became a full national park in 2013, and that is Pinnacles National Park.

Nature in Focus | Uncovering Pinnacles National Park

Nature in Focus | Uncovering Pinnacles National Park
Loading Video...

The park itself is a little bit hard to photograph. The subject matter really requires the right light and a dedication to getting far up into the mountains to make great compositions. Even though it’s in California, it’s also pretty far from any of the major cities and is relatively remotely located, sort of centrally, just in from the coast. It also has two sides/entrances to it; the west side and the east side, which are not connected by a road through the park itself. You actually have to leave the park and drive around approximately 60 miles to get to the other entrance. But for those who are adventurous, you absolutely can hike from one side to the other. Just be sure you have a plan to hike back up and over!

More Pinnacles National Park Photos

See Photos

I finally got my chance to photograph this park in March, and I loved all of it. I could clearly see why it was worthy of a National Park designation. But it wasn’t just the big spires and the unusual rock formations that were formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity that make it special, but rather it was the opportunity to photograph one of the rarest birds in the world, the California condor. On a past episode of Nature in Focus, I had the opportunity to get very close to a California condor, in fact, it peed on me, but those condors were part of the recovery effort (and easy pickings to photograph). To now see them here in the wild, and get the chance to photograph them with only luck on my side, was a first for me. It also reinforced how important recovery programs are, and they in fact are working.

I hope you enjoy this very special episode of nature in focus, as I pretty much acted like a California condor, tucking myself into the rocks and getting very lucky to make some images that I will forever cherish. Thanks for watching these last three years!

Next Up

Explore the Rugged, Remote Chaco Canyon in New Mexico

Photographer and conservationist Ian Shive photographs one of the most remote and rugged parts of the United States to take us on a journey to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico's Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Bobcat on the Hunt

Nature photographer Ian Shive gets a rare close-up of a bobcat hunting ground squirrels in California's Central Coast.

Three New Species of Snakes Discovered in Graveyards and Churches in Ecuador

A team of scientists led by Alejandro Arteaga, grantee of The Explorers Club Discovery Expeditions and researcher at Khamai Foundation, discovered three new cryptozoic (living underground) snakes dwelling under graveyards and churches in remote towns in the Andes region of Ecuador.

Mt. Shasta, California’s Mysterious Volcano, is an Enigma Waiting to be Explored

At the northernmost tip of California lies the southern end of the dramatic Cascade mountain range. And the crowning glory of the range, which ripples down through British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, before it comes to a stunning crescendo at Mount Shasta.

Take Off with the Tipple Family on the All-New Series NATURE IS FLY

On the all-new series, NATURE IS FLY, go on adventures to experience nature and science with the Tipple family. They travel the country and meet the people who are the best in their fields of conservation and more.

Tanzania: Beyond the Wildlife

Most people know that Tanzania is home of the Serengeti and an amazing diversity of wildlife. The country is made up of 430 species of wildlife and 17 national parks. But did you know that it’s where 51 million people call home as well?

Explore Colombia Where Few Have Trekked Before and Discover New Bird Species

The remote Serranía del Perijá mountain range, which divides Venezuela from Colombia, was once ruled by guerrillas, and near-impossible to access. But thanks to the Colombian peace agreement, which was signed in 2016, adventurers are starting to explore the formerly out-of-bounds forest-cloaked peaks.

The Grand Tsingy in Madagascar Is a Deadly Forest of Limestone Needles

The African country of Madagascar boasts plenty of wildlife, but it also features the world's largest stone forest. Some of the limestone peaks reach as high as 2,600 feet, and the nature reserve is home to several unique endangered plants and animals including lemurs.

Exploring the World’s Longest Cave System

The world’s longest cave system is a gargantuan labyrinth of 420 miles of twists and turns and nooks and crannies, with limestone travertine stalactites dripping from the ceilings.

Awesome Fjords in Norway

Avoid the crowds and adventure into the north of Norway. Norway is known for it’s awesome fjords. But what exactly is a fjord? It’s a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs that formed after several ice ages. Find out where to avoid the crowds and visit these natural wonders on your next adventure.

Related To: