The tufa pinnaces at Trona were formed 10.000 to 100.000 years ago when Sierra Nevada snow melt flowed through a chain of glacial lakes, including Searles Lake. When groundwater pushed through fissures in the lakebed, calcium carbonate was formed, and, over time, created tall (some as high at 140 feet), hollow tubes that are the 500 tufa formations we see today as pinnacles. The pinnacles sit outside of the town of Trona, and are not far from the Searles lakebed where a mineral mining company operates today.
Trona is an interesting town, as it is partially abandoned from previous heyday years of mining operations. Major operations in Trona produce borax, boric acid, soda ash, salt cake, and salt. The “town” is only a few miles from the pinnacles, but offers only minimal services, such as gas, food, and lodging. These services sit amongst abandoned buildings and an abundance of crumbling, weathered buildings sitting in disarray. Ridgecrest is the next closest city, within half an hour’s drive.
While there was surely some down time over the centuries, humans inhabited the Ridgecrest, Searles Lake, and Trona Pinnacles area as long ago as 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. According to the BLM informational signs, archaeological finds include ancient spear points and throwing sticks thought to be used for butchering food. Bones of the wooly mammoth have been found at the pinnacles site.
It is not surprising that Trona Pinnacles has been used as a backdrop in car commercials, and sci fi movies, like Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The area is open to the public and managed by Bureau of Land Management. Camping is dispersed and primitive, so there is are no bathrooms or water available. The Trona Pinnacles are a part of the California Desert National Conservation Area.