The national monument, in the Gabilan Range east of the Salinas Valley, encompasses the remnants of an ancient, extinct volcano.
Beacon Rock State Park
The 848-foot monolith on the Washington side of the Columbia River, 35 miles upstream from Portland, has served as a landmark to voyagers for centuries. Beacon Rock—once the core of a volcano—looks daunting, but a 1.8-mile round-trip trail eases the climb up it with switchbacks, stairs, and handrails. With every step you take, the Columbia Gorge view grows more expansive. (360) 902-8844, parks.wa.gov.
Pinnacles National Monument
Pinnacles National Monument, southeast of Salinas, Calif., could be our next national park, welcoming even more visitors to its exceptional terrain. The 26,000-acre park features rock towers, canyons, caves, and even chances to see California condors, with their wingspans up to 91/2 feet, soaring above the rugged landscape of San Benito County. (831) 389-4485, nps.gov/pinn.
Photography by Jonathan Eden/iStockPhoto
This article was first published in November 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.