High Peaks & Balconies Cave Loop Trail is a 8.3 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Paicines, CA that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
Hike the highs and lows of Pinnacles National Monument, one of the best parks in central California. The striking terrain of the Pinnacles National Monument might make you feel like you're at least a couple of state borders away from the San Francisco Bay Area, but in truth this national park is less than a hundred miles south of San Jose. Our recommended route combines two of the most popular trails in the park - boasting caves, some tight squeezes in high places and to top it all off, the chance to spot the endangered Californian condor. Tips: - Summer conditions can be fierce on hikers in this park, so plan to tackle this park in cooler weather and remember to bring plenty of water. There is a water spigot at the West Chaparral parking lot which comes in useful. - Bring a flashlight or headlamp for the short yet pitch-black section of the Balconies Cave. - Check the park's official website for trail closures in the winter/spring nesting season. - A day use fee is payable at the park. Alternatives: - Balconies cave short semi-loop hike from the Chaparral entrance, with minimal elevation gain. - High Peaks loop trail from Bear Gulch, which boasts a shorter route to the top of the mountain, but without the Balconies Cave experience.
This trail was amazing!
You start off on a relatively long uphill battle, walking a long a swerving road until you get to the top. As you go up, there is very really shade, and the sun is scorching hot; especially if you go at 3pm, on a hot day, near the beginning of June. I would recommend to stop and take a breather every 15 minutes and appreciate the view around because the elevation increase is very rapid. By the time you reach the top, you are drenched, exhausted yet simultaneously energized by plethora exposure to the sun, and are surrounded by the fascinating high peaks and rock formations of the pinnacles.
The path is then more or less flat for a little while with some intermittent shade until you reach a set of large rocks that you need to climb! Luckily, foot holes were drilled into the side of the rock and a rail has been put in place as well make it a very safe climb, but it's fun and exciting nonetheless.
One of the most exciting parts was the cave you had to go through about 3 - 4 hours into the hike. It is pitch black, so make sure to bring a flashlight. It is also very slippery, so make sure to take your time as you descend further down. It is unlike anything I've experience int he past, and was thrilled by every moment that I got to spend in it.
The hike culminates with a very flat and simple 1 - 2 mile walk that takes you across the whole park back to the parking lot, which was a nice way to cool off.
My friends and I did the hike in just under five hours, between 2pm and 7pm. The sun was hot, the trail was bare, so this is definitely not a trail where you want to make sure that you've brought enough water.
Seeing how this is a relatively strenuous hike, in a less popular location, we only came across a few other groups of hikers along the way.
Definitely a must for any avid California hiker!