We have observing access to the Pinnacles. Good news. Observing access has even gotten more relaxed since this fabulous area became a national park. Go figure.
This is on the west side, coming in from just south of Soledad, off 101. Where we have open access is at the end of the road, at the trailhead under the hoodoos themselves. Those improbable granite spires and towers are worth the trip in the first place.
There is a new visitors center, closer to the entrance to the park, with a sizable parking lot and wider horizons than at the trailhead. Another good choice for setting up.
What I did hear from the rangers themselves is that they’re used to climbers leaving the trailhead lot late. There’s a gate that closes at 8 pm but swings outward when you’re leaving. They have a history of liking stargazers.
Now this being a new site for open observing, we very much want to watch our p’s and q’s. The rangers do not want to find us in the morning there. No camping out overnight. And no fistfights, and be polite to the rangers, and pay the park fees. And no knife fights either, TACos and TAQueritas.
I’ve observed several times on both sides of the Pinnacles, and it can get seriously dark there. You’re in the middle of the Gabilan range (of which Gabilan Peak, also known as Fremont Peak, is the tallest). On the west side there is a small discrete light dome where you can see where the Soledad prison is, but you have to look for it.
Just for an idea of darkness, it was on the east side that I caught my very own two of the Djorgowski globulars, Djorg 2 and 3. On the west side on one visit, I caught SN2013dy, a supernova in a skinny little galaxy in Lacerta, ngc7250, definitely a dark sky hop.
Camping at Pinnacles is on the east side, off of Hwy 25 south of Hollister. There is no road thru the Pinnacles. What we’ve done for starparties is book sites on the far western end of this east side campground on a quieter weekend, to get away from other campsites. Any light domes you see from the east side are the product of imagination.