hiking

walking

views

birding

nature trips

wild flowers

kid friendly

wildlife

forest

Pinnacles National Monument is a protected mountainous area located east of central California's Salinas Valley. The Monument's namesakes are the eroded leftovers of half of an extinct volcano.The Monument is divided by the rock formations into East and West Divisions, connected by foot trails; there is no through road that connects the east end west entrances to the park. The east side has shade and water, the west has high walls. The rock formations provide for spectacular pinnacles that attract rock climbers. It is popular with advanced rock climbers due to the many difficult and challenging climbs. The Monument is most often visited in spring or fall because of the intense heat during the summer months.

This trail was amazing. It is definitely a workout, but the experience and vistas are well worth the effort.

We hiked this trail in November. It felt private even though we saw maybe 20 other people.

This hike begins across the street from the Nature Center at the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. It is a loop, marked by a bench and a vault toilet in the middle (nestled in the high peaks). Be advised there is no water here.

The right side of the loop (via Condor Gulch Overlook) is the more technically challenging side with steep stairs that you have to navigate alongside cliffs. The left side is just a trail. Both are steep. However families with young children might find it easier to just go up and down on the left side (which is what we saw many people doing).

We did the loop in the counterclockwise direction as it was easier to navigate going up on the difficult portion than going down.

About 1 mile into it you'll encounter Condor Gulch Overlook. You might see some condors flying overhead but keep going. The views from the top are beyond compare. About 1.7 miles up you intersect the famous High Peaks Trail - take that route. It'll lead you around the Peaks to the vista in the middle by the bench.

As mentioned there are some difficult bits but it is manageable. Bring lots of water, a snack, a jacket for the higher elevations, and hiking poles. Using a single pole make navigating the stairs much easier.

This was one of my most favorite hikes I have ever done. The experience was amazing topped off with seeing 6 condors. It is definitely a not to be missed experience at Pinnacles.

4 days ago

We did the portion of the Bench Trail between the Peaks View Day Use Area and the Bear Gulch Day Use Area specifically. We chose this portion for its unique contrast to the rest of the park (and actually did it in conjunction with the High Peaks Condor Gulch Trail).

This portion is an out and back totaling about 2.7 miles. It begins adjacent to the road in Peaks View, but soon you encounter a double foot bridge and the trail heads away from the road (or at least to a point where you can no longer see it).

Unlike the rest of the park, this area is marked by deciduous trees, a stream (that stays full despite water shortages), a waterfall, ferns, flowers, and butterflies. It also goes past a meadow, where we saw 3 deer.

You cross the stream several times over wooden foot bridges. There is a steep portion but it doesn't last long. Oh and one point you cross an employees driveway, which can be confusing if you're not expecting it.

We only saw 2 other people on this trail. Very sweet and enjoyable.

This is an amazing cave trail!

Balconies Cave is larger than the Bear Gulch Lower Cave. I can't compare it to the Bear Gulch Upper Cave as it was closed when we visited.

Before attempting to hike to Balconies Cave, make sure you check if it is open. It is sometimes closed for weather (E.g., in case a flash flood is possible). Here is the site to check the status:

https://www.nps.gov/pinn/planyourvisit/cavestatus.htm

I would check that before heading out (or ask a ranger) so you don't hike to a dead end.

We hiked this trail in November in the rain, but thankfully the cave remained open. We saw some people on the trail, but not many. There were more in and around the cave itself as there is a parking lot and shorter trail to reach the cave, which bypasses the Old Pinnacles Trail portion of this hike.

The hike was beautiful and the rain gave it a lovely coloration. The trail is a lollipop and in total you will cross the creek five times in each direction (only one is actually on a little bridge). For us the creek was mostly dry (only two of those seven times had any water at all), although in the spring following a wet winter these might be challenging.

The cave was extraordinary. It is however, pitch black in some sections so flashlights or head lamps are a must. It would also be helpful to bring gloves as several points in the cave require difficult maneuvering and fitting through tight spaces. Hiking through the cave through the Old Pinnacles Trail does point you in an easier direction thou. There is one point in the cave where you need to almost boulder in the darkness to get up to the opening. That segment would have been much more difficult going down than up.

Once through the cave, you go back via the Balconies Cliffs before meeting back up with the Old Pinnacles Trail. Watch for this sign so you don't miss the turn or you'll wind up on the longer Wilderness Trail.

This trail and cave was awesome - we actually ate our lunch in the cave itself! When visiting Pinnacles National Park make sure not to miss this one.

This trail was cool- until this point I had never had the opportunity to hike through a legitimate cave, so the experience was unique and unforgettable.

We hiked this trail in November on Thanksgiving weekend. Unfortunately we didn't realize that this a heavily populated time to visit the park, so on this shorter cave hike we saw many people. However, I imagine on another weekend this wouldn't be an issue.

Before attempting to hike to the Bear Gulch caves, make sure you check if they are open. Bear Gulch caves are divided into the upper and lower caves, but they sometimes are closed to protect the native bat population. Here is the site to check the status:

https://www.nps.gov/pinn/planyourvisit/cavestatus.htm

I would check that before heading out (or ask a ranger) so you don't hike to a dead end.

The trail is easy, short, and pretty. The only time it becomes a little challenging is in the cave itself, where you have some dark navigating around rocks and some ducking to do. Make sure you bring a flashlight or a headlamp as the cave will be pitch black for some sections. Also it might be helpful to bring grippy gloves as you maneuver.

on Bear Gulch Trail

hiking
10 days ago

A great hike for the whole family! The caves are a lot of fun.

on Moses Spring Trail

hiking
10 days ago

Busy, but a great little trail with caves, a reservoir, and a nice view at the top. The kids loved the cave!

This park is amazing and I can't wait to come back. Do yourself a favor and check out both of the caves as well as doing the full high peaks trek. Bring plenty of water. The scenery is just jaw dropping and crawling through caves with flashlights was just too much fun.

The best part was the views in the High Peaks, the Cave trails and the reservoir. The northern half of the loop is a little less eventful. The warm and dry air was a nice change from the colder Bay air.

hiking
1 month ago

Great trail to give an understanding of the pinnacles area. Fantastic in the spring when wildflowers abound. A bonus is the opportunity to see California condors.

1 month ago

As mentioned in other reviews there's a $15/vehicle park fee and it's busy later in the day so get there as close to the 9am open as possible on weekend days.

We combined the High Peaks trail with the Bear Gulch and Reservoir trail for about an 8 mile loop.

Started from Bear Gulch day use area and headed through the caves to the reservoir. The caves had a couple really tight sections so not a good way to go if you're claustrophobic. You should also have a headlamp or flashlight if you go this way. We didn't see any of the bats but I think we heard some.

After checking out the reservoir we headed up to High Peaks and then came back down Condor Gulch trail. The climb was great (somewhat strenuous and steep in sections) and the views at the top were amazing. We even did a little scrambling up some of the big rocks at the top which was fun.

Only real complaint was that we didn't see any of the condors, although we saw a lot of wildlife including other birds, lizards, and deer.

Bring a lot of water, the hike is exposed and the air is very dry so you lose water quickly without really knowing it.

Nice talus cave formations of the ancient geological era

Wow! What an amazing view. This trail kicked my butt. I didn't bring enough water. So if you hike this in summer - hydrate! :) it was a spontaneous trip for me and I didn't realize it was so steep. I can't wait to hike this one again!