trona pinnacles
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Visit Another World by Exploring California's Mystical Trona Pinnacles


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The Trona Pinnacles are a national natural landmark in the California desert southwest of Death Valley National Park. They are situated just outside the town of Trona near the calcium-rich groundwaters of Searles Lake, these unique geological features formed over several different ice ages. Pleistocene tombstones in appearance, the pinnacles are known as tufa spires, which are mostly made up of calcium carbonate.

Today, these tufa pinnacles tower over a dry lake basin, making a great place for a range of exciting outdoor recreation. Whether you're headed to Death Valley from the Los Angeles area or just driving down Highway 178 for the thrill of it, be sure to make that turn east of Trona-Red Mountain Road and experience the pinnacles yourself!

What to Do at the Trona Pinnacles

The eerie and unique landscape of the Trona Pinnacles located in the upper Mojave Desert in Southern California

Ron and Patty Thomas via Getty Images

In addition to a smattering of hiking trails and plenty of spots for incredible photos, the Trona Pinnacles are primarily utilized as an OHV playground. Like many outdoor areas in San Bernardino County, the pinnacles are an excellent destination for dirt bikes and four-wheel-drive vehicles. At 14 square miles, this section of Searles Dry Lake is perfect for kicking up dirt and hitting high speeds. Other than that, they're an excellent place for taking in the Milky Way, thanks to the lack of light pollution.

Camping at the Trona Pinnacles

While these fascinating tufa formations are under Bureau of Land Management jurisdiction, they don't have the sort of dedicated overnight areas car campers, and RVers might be accustomed to. Fortunately enough, BLM allows dispersed camping and boondocking on most of its land, so visitors can enjoy the night sky from this dry lakebed without breaking the law. Although there are vault toilets near the pinnacles, there aren't any other modern features or facilities, so be sure to bring everything you'll need to spend the night, especially water.

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The Trona Pinnacles in Movies

Beautiful view of Trona Pinnacles in California against the starry night sky

Attila Adam via Getty Images

Along with commercials and photoshoots, the pinnacles have made their way into many movies, TV shows, and other media. These include but are not limited to Planet of the Apes, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Lost in Space, not to mention music videos by both Rihanna and Lady Gaga.

Do you have a Trona Pinnacles story to share? Regale readers with your epic on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!

READ MORE: 25 Cities, Parks, Forests & Attractions to Customize Your California Road Trip

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