Hike Pinnacles National Monument

High Peaks Trail
Years ago a good friend/photographer highly recommended visiting Pinnacles National Monument.  The monument is best visited during the fall, winter, and spring (summer is too hot).

Pinnacles National Monument, a natural volcanic wonderland is located in central California, about 50 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and 140 miles south of the San Francisco Bay area. The park has over 30 miles of trails featuring 2 caves, hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing. It is also famous for citing birds of prey namely, the California Condor. Overnight camping is allowed only in the campground accessed from the east entrance. We were able to explore the entire park in 1 1/2 days.

Day 1 – Bear Gulch and Balconies Caves

Early afternoon we arrived at the East Entrance Pinnacles Visitors Center. We checked in at the campground and the Visitor Center Ranger gave helpful tips and recommendations for planning our 1 1/2 day exploration of the park that included being equipped with good working flashlights for both the Bear Gulch and Balconies Caves. First, we parked at the Bear Gulch Trail Head and hiked the Bear Gulch Trail to the High Peaks Trail, to the intersection with the Juniper Canyon Trail. At the intersection, we headed back to the car. We then drove to the Condor Gulch Trail Head and hiked up to the overlook and back. It was a perfect plan to experience the southern part of the park complete with caves, views, exercise, and a bit of optional rock climbing.

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Bear Gulch Cave

Bear Gulch Caves

Bear Gulch Reservoir
Day 2 – High Peaks/Balconies Trail Loop

After a very cold night, we got on the trail to hike a 10-mile loop. After talking to the ranger the day before, we altered the direction and route of our original plan. Our loop started at the Old Pinnacles Trail Head, north on the Old Pinnacles Trail, south on the Bench Trail, east on the High Peaks Trail, north on Juniper Canyon Trail, north on the Balconies Trail to the Balconies Cave Trail, and west on the Old Pinnacles Trail to the car. I recommend this route with the biggest elevation gain in the morning, cave exploration in the early afternoon, stunning views, and the trail is fun and very creative.

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High Peaks Trail

Cool steps

Juniper Canyon Trail

Balconies Cave
Steps down into Balconies Cave

 

 

The trail system in the park was well designed and very diverse with sections perfect for kids to explore and wander and also features strenuous portions for the avid hiker. Also, the park has many established climbing routes making it a playground for the experienced rock climber. We would definitely like to revisit during the spring when wildflowers are in bloom and perhaps have the opportunity to cite a California Condor.

View additional trip photos on Flickr

7 Comments

  1. Love your blog, found it Googling Clouds Rest, then found this page on your map, glad you made it out to Pinnacles, I live near by and find it more amazing every year!

    • Hello Roger,
      Thank you for visiting my site. My daughter just moved to to the Monterey Bay area, which is close by. I am looking forward to visiting Pinnacles again soon. What time of year do you recommend? I went in the late fall.

  2. Now that was interesting, again – a pitch black video! Good thing I didn’t hear any Moooooing. That would have scared me plenty. I especially like the “going DOWN(!) ” pictures. I could handle that – – – I think.

  3. Really interesting looking place… I hope to do more flying in CA so I can hike at some of these great places!

  4. Cool! I always love your reviews! I’ll be starting some weekend outing in my area soon too.

    • Hey! I was just looking today at pics from the ADZPCTKO of you demonstrating your MYOG sun sleeves and stove screen. Too fun. Yep, there are many interesting places to explore in your area. Thanks for stopping by.

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