High Peaks Condor Gulch Trail

HARD 78 reviews
#2 of 24 trails in

High Peaks Condor Gulch Trail is a 4.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Paicines, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

4.9 miles
1476 feet




nature trips

rock climbing

trail running






wild flowers



no dogs

Essential loop at the Pinnacles, one of the best hiking locales in central California High Peaks Trail at Pinnacles National Monument threads its way through the wreckage of a volcano destroyed by the San Andreas Fault millions of years ago. The Monument, about 100 miles south of San Jose, California, celebrates the strange assortment of rock formations created as the volcano gave way to greater forces of plate tectonics. This loop from the eastern entrance of the Pinnacles provides the most direct route to the High Peaks, where a series of ladders and multiple tight squeezes take hikers through a geological maze that has made the Pinnacles a favorite among hikers from throughout California. While the rocks and expansive vistas are the main attractions, you might get lucky and spot some of the rare California condors that nest in the park and soar high above. Trails on this hike: Condor Gulch Trail; High Peaks Trail; Bear Gulch Trail. Starting from the Bear Gulch parking area, you can go either way. Condor Gulch Trail is a bit steeper, so you may want to start out there to get your climbing done on fresh legs and spare your knees on the way down. 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. $15 Park Entrance Fee

6 days ago

The steep and narrow part is for real steep and narrow. If you have young children or any mobility issues this hike may not be for you. The views are truly stunning and even though it is only 4 miles it feels like a hearty hike. Highly recommended, bring your cameras.

19 days ago

Loved this trail. Saw 2 condors! It is steep but not bad.

19 days ago

One of my favorite hikes! Went on Thanksgiving weekend with my sisters. Had no clue how cool the pinnacles were. We started on the condor gulch trail side which was an uphill workout all the way to the high peaks. We had lunch on one of the rocks at the steep and narrows section overlook and saw 3 California condors flying together. Awesome day and great exercise.

24 days ago

Amazing views and actual condors loitering over the Gulch. The "high and narrow" section lives up to the name, with some near-vertical stone steps. The actual trail surface is pretty smooth though, and easy to traverse. Lots of switchbacks help with the elevation.

28 days ago

Great hike with awesome views! I did this in the counterclockwise direction. The high peaks section is beautiful and the cut outs in the rock are a fun addition. It’s definitely a moderate hike, though.

1 month ago

What a great trail! Alot of uphill but well worth the effort!

1 month ago

Great trail. The steep and narrow portion is fun. Condors perching and flying. Hike early as very little shade. We finished at 11 am and park rangers were already discouraging individuals from starting the trail at that time because of the heat even thought it was October.

2 months ago

Great hike! Perfect for hiking in winter:-)

3 months ago

Great hike

3 months ago

Great hike to condors and views

5 months ago

This was an amazing hike all around. As others have stated, be sure to bring plenty of water during summer months. This hike is definitely a workout, but the views are phenomenal. Pictures do not do this place justice. We went on a Friday and once we climbed closer to the peaks, we rarely saw other people. We saw quite a few condors up close once we made it to the top. I would suggest hiking this one on a week day if possible as I hear it can get busy on weekends.

6 months ago

Great little trail. We enjoyed the views. This would be a fun trail for families. Unfortunately we didn't see any condors but had a great time anyway. We would like to come back and stay at the park a few nights to hike more of the trails and check out some of the rock climbing. And of course, see condors!

7 months ago

Difficult hike if you have foot problems like me, it didn't stop me though! It was very rewarding and I loved the High Peak view. Take plenty of water and snacks. You'll need it! Always check the weather! It gets extremely steep once you start to get closer to the High Peak because of the staircase. Not good for those who have fear of heights but no worries! They have railings for you to hold on. :P Great view of the National Park once you reach to the top.

7 months ago

Love the hike - hard to find anything like this near the bay. Easy to find trailhead however the last 30 minutes will drive you crazy on the country roads. Was on the trail early (830) & parking lot filling up. The first 2 miles is straight up but with great views. Even though we have had a lot of rain this winter, trail was bone drive. Nota tone of people the first 90 minutes. For first timers there are a few places that unnerve you once you get to high peaks - couple places there are actual iron rails to protect/help you (see pictures) but amazing views at the top and 2 different condors. Near the bottom, took the Rim Trail to the reservoir - not much there and super crowded, I would pass next time. Bring a lot of water and sunscreen,

7 months ago

We thoroughly enjoyed our hike on the Condor Gulch Trail. We saw 2 Condors and many turkey vultures. The scenery is amazing! You MUST get here early! Very limited parking

10 months ago

One of my top 5 favorite hikes in central California.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

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.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Great! I didn't expect the scenery. We also were lucky to see some condors!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I've gone twice. Love the views of the fog. It's best to start earlier in morning. You can make it around the park by mid-afternoon and still have the rest of the day. Bring plenty of water in the summer. If you've got a camelbak pack, you're golden. Can't wait to go, again!

Friday, February 12, 2016

breathtaking. make sure you bring enough water

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