Destinations :: Trona Pinnacles


If spectacular desert landscapes get your heart racing, you should add Trona Pinnacles to your bucket list and make sure to bring your camera when you go. Trona Pinnacles is located on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed land near Ridgecrest, California, southwest of Death Valley National Park in the expansive California desert.

What is Trona Pinnacles?

Trona Pinnacles is a collection of over 500 calcium carbonate (otherwise known as tufa) spires that rise as much as 140 feet from the dry Searles Lake Basin. The pinnacles are so unique that they were designated as a National Natural Landmark by the US Department of the Interior in 1968 in an effort to preserve what is one of the best geological specimens of tufas in North America.

The Geology of Trona Pinnacles

The Trona Pinnacles were formed between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago when Searles Lake had water in it. It was one of many interconnected lakes collecting water originating in the Owens Valley (near Mount Whitney) and flowing all the way to Death Valley. During this time, large amounts of calcium carbonate collected in Searles Lake, forming the pinnacles that we see today.

Visit Trona Pinnacles

For overlanders, and adventurers in general, you should visit Trona Pinnacles because it is an amazing natural geologic spectacle offering dispersed (free) camping for up to 14 days at a time. The Pinnacles encompass an area that is roughly 14 square miles with an almost endless number of places to park your truck, camper, or SUV for an extended stay. There are no services there, so plan on bringing all of your water, food, and comforts. Have a bathroom plan because there are none, and digging cat holes is not advised in the fragile desert environment.

Especially relevant to those of us bringing our 4WD and overland rigs, note that driving across vegetation or delicate geological features can permanently damage them. The BLM asks that visitors keep their vehicles on designated roads to reduce our impact on this fragile desert environment. If you are going to have a campfire, you should use a pre-established fire ring instead of creating a new one, and always pack out your trash. Because this is such a remote and spectacular place to visit, consider bringing a trash bag and gloves so that you can pack out trash left behind by other visitors. And always adhere to Leave No Trace principles when enjoying our public lands.


LATITUDE / LONGITUDE: 35.68143, -117.39033


Learn more about Trona Pinnacles on the BLM website.

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Matthew Swartz is originally from Connecticut and currently lives in Denver, Colorado where he passionately pursues rock climbing, trail running, and skiing. Matt’s love of travel has inspired him to through-hike the JMT and part of the PCT, bike across the United States, and explore the West coast of South America from Ecuador to Patagonia. Matt and his partner Amanda have also travelled across much of the Western US in their 1964 Clark Cortez RV, which they lived in, on the road for the better part of three years. Matt has worked for the USFS as an Interpretive Ranger and Wildland Firefighter and Matt's photography and writing has been published in Rova Magazine, the Leatherman blog, 'Hit The Road' by Gestalten Publishing, and Forbes.