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High Peaks & Balconies Cave Loop Trail

moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(171)
Pinnacles National Park

High Peaks & Balconies Cave Loop Trail is a 7.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Paicines, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

Length 7.9 mi Elevation gain 1,804 ft Route type Loop

Hiking

Nature trips

Walking

Bird watching

Running

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Rocky

No shade

No dogs

Description
Waypoints (12)
Contact

Please note as of 2/19/2019 Balconies Cave and Bear Gulch Cave are closed due to flooding. 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.

National Park Service - Pinnacles National Monument http://www.nps.gov/pinn/ Trailspotting - Pinnacles Hike http://www.trailspotting.com/2008/05/pinnacles.html

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (171)
Photos (2173)
Recordings (122)
Completed (601)
Chris Nguyen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarThu Jul 02 2020
Hiking

Great trail for families. The kiddos enjoyed every minute of it. Bring a hat, sunscreens, and plenty of water. Enjoy.

Hope Smith
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarThu Jun 25 2020
Closed

I just finished hiking this trail with 6 of my children. It was very long and it got dark before we finished. It took us over 7 hours to hike around on this trail. It took us longer because we had a few minor injuries which needed to be cleaned. Then children began to get tired and needed to be carried. the cave was closed which added another 1.4 mile to return to the parking lot. our family was concerned when we didn't answer our phones.

Jordan Isern
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Jun 21 2020
HikingNo shade

Gorgeous the whole way! Would reccomend counter clockwise to get the elevation out of the way early. Also, as other people have mentioned, the whole trail is very exposed and thus, very hot (100 degrees by early afternoon). We started early, but temperatures rose quickly. I'm not a large person and I still drank all of my 3 liters with 1.5 miles left on the trail. Takeaway: Bring sun protection and extra water, and go early! COVID information (6/20/2020): Caves are closed and the detour added 0.5 miles to the trip. While the detour also had spectacular views, I did feel like we missed something without the caves. Parking lots and trailhead bathrooms are all open. Park admission (regularly $30) is free!

Nolan Mayther
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFri Jun 05 2020
HikingNo shadeRocky
Jessica Witrago
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun May 24 2020
Hiking

Exploring the caves was quite an eerie experience. Definitely do it though!

Britty Fintel
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Mar 14 2020
Hiking

The cut through should be told that service dogs cannot do that route. My service dog was able to but not other dogs would be able to climb the ladders made in the rocks. It was very scary at some points. Other than that we made it! We had to do some back tracking & added a mile since I forgot my trekking poles. Then back track to take off his pack & lead him through the difficult ladder part.

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Jonathan Gonzalez
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Mar 13 2020
Mountain biking

Bring a headlamp as you are going to need it when you come down or up the caves!! It was such a beautiful day here! The winds were a bit strong but other than that it was really nice! I would suggest two layers.

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Viv Olivera
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Feb 17 2020
Hiking

Super nice in mid-February!

Raymond Klucik
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Feb 15 2020
Hiking

Cool trip through the caves.

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Aaron Yih
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Feb 15 2020
Hiking

I did this hike on my first visit to Pinnacles, and I have to say that it really exceeded expectations. The rock formations and overall chaparral vibe made for a really unique hike. It was also pretty cool to watch those condors soaring overhead. At High Peaks, we ran into a volunteer tracking the condors with a radio. He told us cool stories about how they rehabilitated the California Condor population that was severely endangered. We came on a President's Day weekend and had to wait in our car for 2 hours because the parking lots were full. If you end up parking in the overflow lot, you also have to take a shuttle up to the trailhead (or hike and extra 3 miles). I mostly docked 1 star because the park is pretty small, and when you're there, you don't really feel like you're in nature. It still feels like you're a stone throw away from civilization. It may be that it was just a super crowded weekend, but after doing this loop and re-routing back through the Balconies Caves, I really don't know if I need to return to this park. Especially when the entrance fee is $30!

Jared WILKEN
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Feb 11 2020
HikingRocky

Amazing so worth it! The condors at the top are like planes as they fly over. The trails are fun and challenging!

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Danny Villán
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Jan 21 2020
Hiking

I did this hike today with my friends (Clockwise), I’m not an experienced hiker but I’m in shape (Kind of). I found this hike absolutely beautiful, the landscape is just amazing. Took us 4 hours to do the whole thing, we stopped to eat and take photos, many photos. There is a section that is really narrow and steep, other than that is not difficult or exahusting.

Katie Douglass
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Jan 06 2020
Hiking

We did this trail clockwise from the east entrance, starting at the old pinnacles trailhead. It was nice to do the climb first and in the cooler hours of the morning. High peaks trail has warning signs about steep and narrow and they mean it. There are sturdy handrails when you need them but it was a little anxiety inducing for someone with a fear of heights. We lost the trail briefly to the west of the balconies caves. It travels over some rocks up a stream bed which is a bit tough to track. There’s definitely some adventurous but not dangerous maneuvering among boulders required in the cave. Overall it’s a great trail with a wonderful diversity of environments and solid infrastructure. I look forward to doing it again.

Robyn Pariser
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Jan 05 2020
Hiking

Fun cave and high peaks area. Definitely do counter clockwise, ending with the cave.

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Ray Fowler
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarThu Jan 02 2020

did this trail clockwise. brought an extra set of socks and changed them out after all of the creek crossings and the cave. Garmin said the trail was about 9 miles and it took us about 4:15 to complete with stopping to take pictures. the rocks in the cave are slippery and don't forget to bring a head lamp or flashlight so you can see and take pictures if using your cellphone.

Brian Pederson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Jan 01 2020
HikingRockyScramble

Went at the beginning of JAN 2020. I'd perhaps argue this one could be rated as "hard" not "moderate", especially considering the spelunking and scrambling that has to be done in the cave. The climb took quite a bit out of me. Hands down the most beautiful trail I've ever hiked in California though, the views from the high peaks were incredible, and the opportunity to scramble in a cave was awesome, one I won't soon forget. The pure diversity of scenery and activities on this one trail is incredible. Things to keep in mind: -I clocked in 4hr 45min on this route, I was stopping for photos and to take in views, but I didn't do extended stops. The climb and the cave bit extend things out quite a bit. I also think the length of this route is closer to 9 miles. -When I did the cave, (early JAN 2020) the water in it was high enough to require ankle-deep wading, so DEFINITELY do the route in the counter-clockwise direction suggested to avoid doing the majority of it in wet shoes. Better yet, bring a change of shoes and socks if you know walking in wet shoes bothers you or you're prone to blisters. -Bring plenty of water- even in 55 degree weather I took in almost all of my 2.5 L camelback. -Lastly, parking inside the park is really limited. I'd say there's only a total of about 50-70 spaces, which for a national park isn't a lot, plan to arrive early (before 10a) on weekends to cut out the possibility of not having parking when you arrive.

Elizabeth C
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Dec 15 2019
Hiking

Did this hike counter clockwise, starting with the Juniper Canyon Trail. Nice views and most of the climb was in the first part of the hike. Didn't see any condors, but did some Park Ranger volunteers who were happy to answer questions about the condors and park. As of December 14, Balconies cave is open and accessible. Definitely recommend bringing a headlamp.

Jay B.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Nov 03 2019
Hiking

do counterclockwise to have most steep elevation as a climb. great hike

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Derek MacTavish
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Nov 03 2019
HikingRockyScramble

The beauty of this hike is difficult to grasp and to convey. Nothing I had seen or read prepared me for it. Of all my hikes, this has been the most spectacular. From the caves to the high cliffs and the giant condors... Just do it. See for yourself.

Justin Hoogeveen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Nov 02 2019
Hiking

Great trail. We went the steep part first and hit the caves at the end which i think was a great way to do it. It was a very exhausting hike but worth every minute. Amazing views at all times. I highly recommend it as long as you are in good shape.

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Sonia Lachapelle
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Sep 21 2019
Running

Follow the white little arrows when you get in the caving area

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jess lark
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarWed Sep 18 2019
Hiking

Great trail! 4 stars because some parts you were walking along a road with cars intermittently passing Took High Peaks (stayed on for steep & narrow part for some extra fun)->Tunnel Trail )->juniper canyon )->balconies cave )->old Pinnacles )->bench )->bear gulch Great trail! Lots of variety. Gold balance of challenge / coasting. High peaks was my personal favorite- the views are unbelievable and keep getting better as you continue to climb Took me 4.5 hours with plenty of break to relax and enjoy the view.

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Lily Law
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Sep 09 2019
HikingBugsNo shadeRocky
Jon Merriman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Sep 09 2019
Hiking

Hiking Pinnacles can be a magical experience but you have to know what you're getting into or it can be a nightmare and maybe downright dangerous. The problem can be the heat. We just spent 3 day hiking in the park and really lucked out with the weather. The high was 85; uncommonly cool for this time of year. But even at this temperature we witnessed a medical emergency for heat stroke. All I can say is, if you're going in the summer be prepared. This place can be blazing hot. The caves and the condor watching are magic. The high peaks are magic. When someone say a hike is strenuous in this park you better believe it and be ready. I loved it all but it was a challenge.

Alexandre Jouan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Aug 24 2019
HikingNo shadeRocky
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