High Peaks & Balconies Cave Loop Trail is a 7.9 mile moderately 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.

DISTANCE
7.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,804 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

no dogs

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.

hiking
24 days ago

love this hike so much! the views are amazing and the balconies are a nice touch to the hike. something different and exciting!

hiking
1 month ago

Though it was upwards of 90 degrees, there is ample tree cover on the lower part of the trail. Towards the peak, amazing views across the valley and on the off-chance, able to catch a glance of the 40~ California Condors flying around! Overall, a very good hike for beginner to intermediate hikers!

hiking
1 month ago

So the reviews made here were very useful in completing my hike yesterday. We carried enough water for the 9 mile trek. Insects were not a problem like they were in summer. We started out early in West parking area, 35 degrees so we hit the trial fast to warm up. Midweek was a great time to go, saw less than a handful, not including a school group at the caves. Luckily they had all just gone through and we had the caves to ourselves which was a first. When we got to the High Peaks it was warmer and sunny. This is a truly awesome not to be missed hike, should have led with this. Go for the views especially of the Peaks with the mountain backdrop. In some spots on this trail, you can experience what the "Sounds of Silence" are as this hike will take you there.
We were able to see a California Condor up close next to the trail which was awesome.

Virtual Treadmill video of this hike can be seen on my YouTube Channel, copy and paste link below to watch it. Thanks.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFO02nxPdM4-CabegFIPlow?view_as=subscriberGreat trip to see the peaks.

hiking
2 months ago

Beautiful views, quiet, can get really hot... overall great experience.

2 months ago

Almost had the place to myself. Went counter clockwise. Outstanding views from the peaks. Caves were awesome. I was the contractor who built the West visitor Center, and had never hiked anything in the park until today. Special day!

hiking
6 months ago

Absolutely breathtaking, being beautiful and harder but completely worth it.

hiking
7 months ago

Amazing hike, one of the best I’ve been to. Very exhausting on the hot day, make sure to get enough water and snacks.

8 months ago

Spectacular!

hiking
11 months ago

Tough. Don’t do this hike in 90-100 degree weather. Bad mistake. Lol!

hiking
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

We were told at the check in desk “no, you don’t want to do this hike”. It was apparently based on our apparent age! We ignored the “suggestion” and completed the high peaks trail and the caves. Challenging, but worth every step.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Early cool morning hike, took 3hr 50 min for full loop

hiking
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This is a tough hike! The first few miles are the hardest part as it's all uphill until you get to the peaks. The views are beautiful, so the trek is definitely worth it. The rest is downhill or flat until you get to the Balconies caves, which was a nice break from the hot sun. They rock formations within the caves were insane and was a good way to end the hike. I definitely recommend bringing a lot of water and bug spray. We had flies swarming us for the majority of the hike.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Awesome hike! Kids loved it!

hiking
Thursday, March 23, 2017

Long hike .. took about 4.5 hours will do it again

Sunday, June 07, 2015

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!

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