Condor Gulch Trail to High Peaks Trail Loop

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Pinnacles National Park

Condor Gulch Trail to High Peaks Trail Loop is a 5.5 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Soledad, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, and nature trips and is accessible year-round.

Length5.5 miElevation gain1,630 ftRoute typeLoop
HikingNature tripsRunningCaveForestLakeViewsWildflowersWildlifeRockyScrambleFeeNo dogs
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Getting There

Pinnacles National Park charges a fee to enter. Fees are $30 per vehicle or $25 per motorcycle. If you are entering on foot or bike the fee is $15 per person. You can also purchase a park specific annual pass for $55. The Condor Gulch Trail to High Peaks Trail Loop is one of the best hikes in Pinnacles National Park. The trail head is located by the Bear Gulch Visitor Center and is best reached from the east entrance of the park. The 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. The trail passes by Bear Gulch Reservoir and the Bear Gulch Caves. 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. There are steep and narrow sections of the trail that require some technical footing. Caves in the area tend to close seasonally due to weather conditions and the presence of wildlife. To view updated closure information, please see https://www.nps.gov/pinn/planyourvisit/cavestatus.htm

Poor Parking - if more than 5 vehicles are parked in the parking area, there has to be street parking

California Travel and Tourism Commision, P.O. Box 1499 , Sacramento, CA, 95812-1499, Phone: 800-862-2543

Bring plenty of water and snacks to keep your energy level up -- there's over 1,000 feet of ascent in the first two 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.

Directions from Lake Arrowhead, CA: Travel north on Highway 173 through Deer Lodge Park to just north of Rock Camp. The trail is on the west side of the highway. Same spot /right next to the shooting range (trail is on the left side of the gate).

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Reviews (1,140)
Photos (5,480)
Activities (962)
Completed (3,092)
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Bev Harben
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Great!

Excellent day, really fun trail. Not really difficult if you are prepared with water and good hiking shoes, but this is better choice if you’ve had some hiking experience. It could be challenging to inexperienced hikers. I’m 70, and my husband is 76, we took the counter clockwise route from Bear Gulch to the High Rim up through the steep and narrows, and had a blast! Beautiful views, great variety, and fun to meet other intrepid hikers. We met several families with young children who were having a fantastic time.

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Jessie Brady
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HikingScramble

Challenging but worth it. I started early on a Thursday (8:30ish) and went counter clockwise. Didn’t have a problem getting a parking spot in the lot, but by the time I returned the lot was full. There is a portion of the trail described as steep and narrow and they are not kidding. Also, there is a well maintained swimming pool behind the park’s visitor’s center...pretty nice to take a dip in after the long hike, but bring quarters for the shower.

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Andrew Gifford
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Great!
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Kevin Kelly
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HikingGreat!
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Soo H
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HikingGreat!No shadeRockyScramble

So much variety from epic views of the Pinnacles, the condors, pretty reservoir/lake, and caves. Started counter-clockwise and was exposed to sun most of the way with some shades on the way down.

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shristi regmi
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HikingGreat!

Most recommended hike in Pinnacles. It was full of adventure. Make sure you get there early to find a parking spot.

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Rubiella .
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Wow! There were parts I was not a fan of and other parts that I was in love with or mesmerized by, but overall, this trail and Pinnacles was just so incredibly fascinating. I hated the lack of shade during the first 80% of the trail (I went counterclockwise), but even the dessert-ish views from the highest points were really delightful (I'm partial to shady Redwood forest trails) and I was really proud of myself for going through the crazy steep rock stairs part by myself b/c I'm afraid of heights. The drive there was really pretty and the weather was great too! 60s, slightly cloudy, nice breeze. I definitely want to go explore more trails, like in Old Pinnacles area or when the caves open again, but I would probably avoid hotter weather. Oh! They weren't even running the front station so there was no entrance fee. And when I arrived, their parking was full so they were holding cars in line to be let through once cars left the park. They were saying it could take up to 2 hours to be let through, but I got through after 5-10 minutes of waiting. I think I got really lucky with how the whole day turned out, but I definitely recommend to check out Pinnacles and this trail!

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Dr Corgwyn
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Hiking

Amazing views. 3 miles from visitor center to Condor Gulch trailhead due to full parking

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Jeniel Singh
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Hiking

Beautiful hike! So many great views. Make sure to bring lots of food, water, and probably sunscreen

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Sara Fairchild
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HikingGreat!Rocky

Brilliant trail full of sweeping views, challenging climbs, and wildlife. Narrow and steep passing through rocky sections all with supportive and secure handrails. Would suggest able bodied, good shape to pass through these sections. Bring plenty of water and snacks, takes a while to make this loop. Parking extremely limited, arrive early to find a spot. Started at Bear Gulch area, can pass clockwise or counterclockwise. Good, traction boots a must, some loose rock on sections of the trails in this loop. Fun challenging and very beautiful. Well worth the visit.

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Maggie Wisniewski
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Hiking

Great trail! High peaks section was a lot of fun, and spotted 3 condors

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David Fellows
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HikingGreat!

Beautiful views with varying rock formations. Was unable to see any condors, but saw several snakes and rabbits. Arrived at 10am and the main parking lot was full. Definitely advise showing up early for convenient parking. Unless you want to add an additional 5 miles (2.5 miles to trail head) to your hike. Did an additional mile for Bear Gulch, well worth it. Bring plenty of water and snacks. Caves are still closed.

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Karen Garcia-Smith
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Hiking

Great scenery!! Great day of hiking. A California gem

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Susanne Vertin
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Hiking

Amazing hike but get to the parking lot by 8:00 now. We got lucky to get parking at the manzanita lot but it adds another mile each way to the hike. Still worth it. Gorgeous views around every corner.

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Gwendolyn Kingsbury
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Hiking

Great trail with nice views all along the way. There are so many neat rock formations and we enjoyed the elevation changes. We thought it was a pretty milder hike but there are some very steep staircases. Enjoy!

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Guy Brenner
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Hiking

Beautiful vistas. Got to see the condors way up high at the top. Caves are closed due to COVID. Bring plenty of water

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Ben Kornell
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HikingGreat!

Trail is moderate to difficult but if you have time, it is totally doable. We did this one with a 4 yr old

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Stacey T
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 14, 2021
Bird watchingRockyScramble

Got to the park at 8am on a Tuesday. Lots of parking at that time. Didn't see anyone until I got closer to the top of the trail. saw one condor and 6 turkey vultures in close vicinity taking a nap on the way up. Very foggy and cold in the morning but I know in summer this place is roasting. It's a very exposed trail. Beautiful views the whole way up. Climbed up and down the crazy rock stairs- I'm not going to lie, I was scared but it was so worth it. Saw about 10 condors flying around. It was breathtaking. Bring lots of water and a snack. Come on a weekday and early and you will avoid crowds so you can truly take in the beauty of this place.

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Ava Kavi
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HikingRocky
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Aurore Masson
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Bird watchingGreat!Scramble

Stunning views featuring a variety of landscapes! We were able to see condors after the steep and narrow section with rails. Be careful of rattlesnakes! Parking : arrive early if you want to access the park without having to wait 2+ hours. The downside of arriving late is that you won’t choose where to park either.

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Brooks Nevrly
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Hiking

Best trail in the park. Saw a lot of California condors!

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Charlotte Sally
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Hiking

Awesome trail! Good climb at the beginning and a few stairs to manage but overall gorgeous. A great view of the different areas of the park

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Eleanor Gene
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Hiking

Amazing. Got there at 5:30 and there was one car already in the parking lot, and another pulled in after me. Nice and peaceful until after 10am when I got down to bear gulch reservoir it was insanity... so many people and most weren’t wearing their masks. Pretty disappointing to see that. Otherwise, I see why this spot has gotten very popular- it’s definitely NOT the “least visited NP” anymore. It’s very impressive! Hopefully they set up reservations soon, I saw a 3 mile line of cars waiting for parking spots on my way out!

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Joanne Swenson
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HikingScramble

The Ugly: If you suffer from anxiety about ladders or heights, do not do this hike. Precarious passages but completely doable if you take your time and watch your feet. The Good: Beautiful trail scents of flowering bushes today. The Bad: Forced to park at Pinnacles Campground added 6.8 miles to our hike! Grrrr. Next time I will wait by the ranger until he lets us pass. Frustrating to see cars entering and passing us as we are walking to trail head!

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