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High Peaks and Bear Gulch Loop Trail is a 7.7 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Paicines, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and bird watching and is accessible year-round.

Length 7.7 mi Elevation gain 1,942 ft Route type Loop

Hiking

Bird watching

Cave

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Rocky

No shade

No dogs

Description
Waypoints (0)
Contact
Tips
Getting There

Please note as of 2/19/2019 Balconies Cave and Bear Gulch Cave are closed due to flooding. Due to COVID-19, the road leading to the trailhead is currently closed to vehicular traffic. This will add about 2.5 miles each way. For more information, please see https://www.nps.gov/pinn/planyourvisit/temporary-operational-guidelines.htm Hike the whole length of the High Peaks Trail to find out why it's the most popular Pinnacles trail. High Peaks Trail is a rugged route through the remarkable rock features of Pinnacles National Monument, which was formed millions of years ago when the San Andreas Fault shattered a volcano. While many hike options at the Pinnacles include parts of High Peaks Trail, I'm particularly fond of this loop because it takes in the entire trail. Trails on this loop: Bear Gulch Trail, Bench Trail, High Peaks Trail. Main attractions are the jungle gym of stairs, steps and close quarters along the top of the trail, but the ascent to the top is well worth checking out too. Take the Bench Trail first and gradually climb upward with awesome vistas all the way up. If fortune smiles, you might catch sight of the rare California condors that soar above the park. Best time to go: Springtime adds wildflowers to the awesome scenery, making it a near perfect hike. Summer will be too hot and autumn may be too dry, but winter should be gorgeous if you give the trails a couple days to dry out after passing storm systems.

Pinnacles National Monument website http://www.nps.gov/pinn/index.htm

Bring plenty of water and snacks to keep your energy level up -- there's over 1,300 feet of ascent in the first three miles. Don't forget the sunscreen: there isn't much shade on this route. Contact: (831) 389-4486 Hours: The eastern side of the park is open 24 hours a day. Fees: $5 per car (free if you own a national parks pass).

Driving directions from the Bay Area: Take U.S. 101 south through Gilroy to Highway 25 south. Take Highway 25 through Hollister and go 30 miles to Highway 146. Turn right on 146 and take it into the park. Driving directions from the south: Take U.S. 101 North to King City; exit at First Street and turn right. Take First Street till it turns into Bitterwater Road and follow it Highway 25. Turn left (north), go 15 miles and turn left onto Highway 146 to enter the monument.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (104)
Photos (2904)
Recordings (81)
Completed (392)
Christie R.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 26, 2020
HikingNo shadeRocky

We hiked High Peaks and Bear Gulch yesterday (7/26/20) from the east entrance Visitor's Center parking lot (Bench Trail to Bear Gulch to Rim (used Rim to get down to Bear Gulch Reservoir) back to High Peaks, and down via Condor Gulch). Bench and most of Bear Gulch are shaded, but the shade stops there for the most part, so I'd suggest sunblock and getting an early start - our temps yesterday were around 99-102 degrees. The park road is closed beyond the campground so the addition of hiking Bench and Bear Gulch to get to the High Peaks trailhead adds 4+ miles roundtrip. Ordinarily, you can drive in, park at Bear Gulch, and access the High Peaks trailhead from that parking lot. That said, take plenty of water (we carried 6 L between the two of us and were out by the end) - we passed more than one group that underestimated water needs and heat exhaustion rescues are not uncommon. Left the parking lot at 9AM and returned at 4PM with several snack/photo stops included. I concur with other reviewers that the Condor Gulch section after High Peaks is somewhat of a downhill trudge (best views behind you at that point). If you come to see High Peaks, Bear Gulch Reservoir is worth the short additional loop, but note that Bear Gulch cave is closed due an inability to social distance in the narrow trail. Hiking pics - @cedarandsurf

Joshua Hupp
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 16, 2020
HikingNo shadeRocky

This is a beautiful hike. We came from north of Seattle and it was worth the trip. We are bummed that the cage hikes are closed, but we enjoyed the high peaks. We started it early to avoid as much sun as we could and made it to the top before high noon. We then went down Condor Gulch. It was real hot but the trail is all downhill, though very rocky.

View Joshua's Recording
Brandi Rubin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 23, 2020
HikingGreat!No shadeRockyScramble

Did this trail as part of a 17. 6 mile hike with two friends during our 4 day stay in Pinnacles N.P. We did this trail, with the others on Tues. June 23rd. This was my first visit to the park, and the campground was amazing. Clean, large sites. Thankfully I brought my own camping shower, as the campground only has 2 showers total for the women, in the entire campground. It was hot, over 100 degrees most days, especially the day we did our most hiking. The camp hosts are super nice and drive around often to make sure all is well, and quiet. The trail we did starts in the campground (bench trail), crosses a road (pinnacles highway), follows a dry river bed and goes into a forested area. This area is cool and shaded, but very short lived. LOL. Beautiful though. From the bear gulch nature center we chose the Bear gulch trail which would take us to the moses spring trail, to the bear gulch reservoir, to the rim trail, to the high peaks, to the steep and narrows trai back down condor gulch and back to camp. It climbs high and is exposed for most of the duration of the hike. There is little to no shade on this trail except for a tree here or there. The views during the entire hike are so amazing. There are rock formations and color changes that will surprise you and awe you. The high point was the fun rock scramble towards the top of condor gulch...we didn't see any condors that day, but lots of hawks. I am afraid of heights, but the steep and narrows trail at the top of high peaks is something to be seen and experienced. It is fun and challenging and scary and the handrails are helpful, albeit hot from the days sun. But it should be explored if you are up at the top because it is not a park to visit many times. It is such a small and beautiful park, that a few days visit will have you completing all the trails and no real need to come back unless you are a local. Highly recommend this national park. It is small, But it is mighty.

Richard Robinson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 18, 2020

Hiked the entire Trail today, 02/17/20. weather was perfect and trail maintained. there was a constant supply of California Condors overhead. Made the hike loop clockwise.

Judy Huynh
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 24, 2020
Hiking

Great trail, the talus caves were amazing, and the reservoir is beautiful! Parking was $30 and we parked at the Bear Gulch day use area which is about 3 miles from the visitor center (east entrance). We took Bear Gulch trail > Moses Spring trail > Bear Gulch Cave trail > Rim trail > High Peaks trail > Bench trail > end back at parking lot. Some things to consider: -if you’re afraid of heights you might want to skip out on the steep and narrow part of the high peaks trail and take juniper canyon > tunnel trail > high peaks trail instead. They mean it when they say it’s steep and narrow! -we started our hike at 9:30 and by 11:00 it got pretty hot (even in January) so bring enough water and hike early if you go during the spring and summer months. There’s a water filling station at the Bear Gulch parking lot FYI! -lots of bees! I was almost stung by one but thankfully had on some pretty thick clothes -condors like to hangout on the high peaks trail early in the morning so keep a look out!

Rachana Raj Sunku
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 1, 2020
HikingBugs
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Sam@ NationalParksTrails
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 6, 2019
Hiking

Did this hike starting early in the morning at 9 o’clock, the trails were clear hardly saw anyone. It was in between rainstorms so the trail was still in good shape. It was very windy at the tops in the high peaks area where we had lunch. Beautiful time to be in pinnacles national park.

Ronn Berrol
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 16, 2019
Hiking

Went Clockwise up Bear Gulch then to High Peaks trail. This direction is better concerned about pounding on your knees, more gentle descent. As I hiked past the Bear Gulch parking lot it was packed with cars, but only saw maybe 10 people on the trail, easy to hiking in solitude for most of the hike. The temperature was about 76 degrees (F), and I went through 2.5 liters of water. I hiked at a comfortable pace and with stops for lunch and photos took me 3 hours and 55 minutes. If you hike up from Chalone Creek Rd Parking pull out then you can get some water at Bear Gulch parking lot or the end of Pinnacles rd, but after that there is absolutely no water. it gets dry and you are exposed alot, so plan accordingly

kirkm161 .
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 28, 2019
Hiking

Great way to see so many great park features!! Lots of various hiking technical skills at use on this loop, exploring talus caves, bouldering, and maybe a little mountaineering if you want to. lots of photo opportunities for not only the gorgeous landscape, but wildlife as well. very cool to see several Condors up near the peaks!! Would be an even better hike on cooler time of year.

Karyn Ryan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 26, 2019
HikingRocky

Beautiful trail ,but go when it is cooler . We went in August 98 degrees. Best trail yet. My suggestion is to do Bear Gulch caves first! Then the reservoir and finally the high peaks. If you take this route first you get adventure from the word go! If you start with the high peaks trail you have to go 3 miles before you get to see anything cool. Bring glove or a towel too. The railing on the high peak trail can get burning hot if you do this hike on a hot day!

Faye Miller
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 24, 2019

this trail was awesome, beautiful views. I have to say though if you're a good hiker I would have rated it moderate not hard

Beth Palacios
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 7, 2019
Hiking

This is one of the most challenging trails I’ve done. Mostly because of steep terrain, my fear of heights, and footholds carved into the rock to climb on. It was a thigh burner, ass kicker, and not for the faint of heart. But the changing of scenery and the breathtaking views made it all worthwhile. I never once got bored and felt a sense of accomplishment when I finished. We did the trail clockwise and I’m glad we followed that advice. I’m not sure I would be able to go down the footholds in the rocks, going up seemed much easier. We watched the hikers who were going down and many were struggling. It is steep! Most of the trail is void of significant shade. I’m glad we we did it the beginning of May, started early, and the weather was pleasant. I couldn’t imagine doing it during summer months with little to no breeze to keep cool. It took us almost 6 hours, but that was after many rest stops during the more brutal inclines and stopping to enjoy the views. We saw many condors and admired their beauty. The ranger said some people can do it in 3 hours, but I’m not sure why you would want to. I feel like you would be missing out on a lot. One of the best, most exciting trails I’ve done to date. A hike to remember!

Frank Nichols
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 11, 2019
Hiking

When arriving I was initially disappointed, especially after paying $30 to get into park. But once on the trail I truly enjoy it and the almost constant picture perfect views. The caves were nothing special but the trail around & up and over the top were amazing. Definitely would do this one again!

Hunter vb n ccc Mathews
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarApril 1, 2019
Hiking

Great hike through the dense creek-side forrest up to the pinnacles and a chill foothill hike on the way down. Good leg burner.

Christine Saeteurn
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 14, 2018
Hiking

If you decide to do this route, we entered from the bear gulch cave entrance. We came from Fresno so we took the 125 to the 25 and entered there. If you’re like me, I did the trail clockwise to get the hardest part over. Bring flashlights for the cave!! I thought it was pretty cool and neat!! The advisors recommended it was easier to go up the “steep and narrows” trail than to go down. Other than that we had a blast. It took us 4.5hr max! We didn’t see any condors at all but overall it was well worth the challenge! After the high peaks and steep and narrow, it’s mostly down hill from there so bring knee wraps if you have knee issues. It’s considered modern but has some hard impacts going downhill. Good luck and have fun!!!

Alan Prattt
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 23, 2018

Great views. Nice stars.

Darcy Weller
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 28, 2018
Hiking

The signage is confusing when the upper cave is closed. If doing the trail clockwise, when you exit the lower cave, head towards the reservoir and you will then see the needed signage

Gina Ferguson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 29, 2018

Climb not too bad. Amazing views. And we saw three condors!!!!

Susan Persing
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 19, 2017

Favorite!

Sam Hing
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 2, 2017
Hiking

pretty cool trail, but fairly exposed.

Joey Gonzalez
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 9, 2017

Beautiful trails in all directions. just really hot on West trails.

Molly McCann
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 2, 2017
Hiking
First to Review

Lots of variety. Beautiful views, plants, and animals. I recommend going clockwise.

G Siff
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 28, 2020
Hiking
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Alisa Ongbhaibulya
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 8, 2020
Hiking
View Alisa's Recording
GJ Chun
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 19, 2020
Hiking
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