Trona Pinnacles – Trona, California - Atlas Obscura

Trona Pinnacles

Trona, California

One of the most unusual geological features, recognizable from a dozen hit movies. 


Known as one of the most unusual geologic wonders in the California Desert, the Trona Pinnacles are more than 500 tufa - they were formed with calcium carbonate - spires of rock that rise from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. Formed underwater between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago, some of these spires reach to more than 140 feet.

Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968 by the Department of the Interior, the Pinnacles are recognizable to many people because they have been used as a filming location for more than a dozen hit movies, including Planet of the Apes and Star Trek.

Once dubbed “Cathedral City,” these ancient formations are classified into four general shapes: towers (taller than they are wide and at least 30 to 40 feet tall), tombstones (stubby and squat), ridges (massive, long sets of ruins), and cones (less than 10 feet tall).

Primitive camping methods are permitted around the Trona Pinnacles, but campers are encouraged to use existing campsites and leave little to no trace of the time they spent there. Some hiking trails weave through the area, but sturdy boots are recommended as they are not maintained. Be warned: There are no services or facilities in the area.

Know Before You Go

Go south on Pinnacle Road from Trona, California, about 20 miles east of Ridgecrest. The dirt road ends at the Pinnacles.