High Peaks Trail

HARD 89 reviews
#3 of 29 trails in

High Peaks Trail is a 6.3 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Paicines, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking and birding and is accessible year-round.

DISTANCE
6.3 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,771 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

birding

hiking

views

wild flowers

wildlife

muddy

rocky

no shade

no dogs

Directions from East Entrance Station: Follow the park road to Chalone Creek Picnic Area. The High Peaks Trail begins from there and ends at the Bear Gulch Visitor Center, which is 1.6 miles south.

17 days ago

Even on the hot days, an early start will allow this hike to be rewarding.

hiking
1 month ago

Not for the faint of heart or fear of heights. Did this loop with 5 adults and 6 kids ages 3-9. Had to take turns carrying the littlest one for some of the trail while she slept but once she got her nap in she was good to go another couple miles!
Steady uphill climb with amazing views from the top. When we got to the tiny "stairs" carved into the rock face we discussed going back for the safety of the children.....BUT instead just devised a safe plan to keep moving forward and made it without difficulty.
The kids enjoyed the caves the most! BUT beware, the caves can be very wet and slippery, be cautious. As we approached the other park entrance, there was EMS crews there and they were life flighting someone out who had gotten hurt in the caves. We made it through without any issues or problems to speak of. It did take much of the day. Pack plenty of water, sunscreen and snacks! I definitely recommend this trail for experienced hikers.

hiking
2 months ago

Awesome trail! Be sure to take lots of water and snacks if you do the whole loop. Should take about 4 hours unless you stop to take in all the beautiful views. Would definitely do this again.

hiking
3 months ago

View from the top is definitely worth it! It's a pretty strenuous hike and is a constant climb, but the trails are very well maintained and there are spots to stop, rest, and enjoy the view along the way. It's not well shaded, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen. The park is really heavily trafficked, and there was no parking when I got there at 9am.

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful hike. Very much worth the incline work. Saw California condors as well as hawks and multitude of picturesque rock formations. Photo opportunities everywhere.

hiking
4 months ago

Easy hiking weather while it’s still cool. Not many wildflowers yet but I’d expect them soon. Shooting stars and bush poppies make up the majority of visible blooms.

hiking
5 months ago

so fun

6 months ago

Beautiful hike! Good to hike in the winter when weather is mild.

7 months ago

The views are amazing and worth the hike. It gets hot fast up there so either go when it’s cold or go super early.

7 months ago

beautiful hike!!

7 months ago

most beautiful hike in the park. great chance to see condors!!

8 months ago

Did not complete trail but made up to the very top and returned. This trail has some challenges if you don't like heights. My wife and i loved it and want to do it again

8 months ago

Great hike! It is steep but well worth it!

hiking
10 months ago

Took my team from work for an outing here and everyone loved it. Easy access, short enough to ensure everyone can finish in a few hours.
There are a couple sections that are very unique and the trail makes for some awesome pictures of going down dark caves and walking up steep stairs carved in the rocks.
A great hike to do for 1st time hikers in Pinnacles

hiking
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Beautiful views and well kept trails. I started my hike around 9 am and by 11 the temperature was about 105. It's a steady climb, but it felt extremely hard with the heat. Bring lots of water and I recommend taking breaks if done in the middle of the day.

hiking
Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hit the road at 5:30 and was on the trail at 8:15. Had a great workout on this hike this morning and totally worth it. Temp was right on the edge of warm but fine and there was a nice breeze much of the time. Sky was cobalt blue.

hiking
Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Awesome trail! It's already very dry up there so bring lots of water.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

This hike was gorgeous in April - not cold, not hot. We took the recommendation of the Park Ranger at the visitor center and started with the climb first - high peaks trail to tunnel trail to juniper canyon trail to balconies cave trail to old pinnacles trail. It was perfect. We had to park at Peaks View parking lot, so had an extra mile or so along the bench trail. 9.2 miles total. It was a great day!

hiking
Monday, April 24, 2017

Start early to beat the heat, and camel up with water. Diverse terrain and a variety of flora, fauna and scenic vistas make this hike a rich reward for your efforts. We began our clockwise circuit with some easy spelunking through the Bear Gulch Cave (roosting spot of the female Townsend's Bats) and followed the running sweet water back to its source at the Reservoir. Red legged frogs were successfully reintroduced into the reservoir, so sadly swimming through their habitat is not an option. However, your uphill climb will be rewarded with scenic peaks made even more stunning by Spring wildflowers. There is an unexpected outhouse near the top. At the peak, pick your fav rock to perch upon and enjoy a well earned shady respite under the pine tree canopy. We picnicked with California Condors soaring above, watched a squirrel eating Miner's Lettuce at our feet, and Cliff Swallows tending to their nest on the rock face. Chiseled rock steps will make you feel like you are in some ancient Game of Thrones style civilization. The hot descent was sweetened by the aromatics of sage and chaparral. The Camp Store has a decent selection of cold brews to soothe your tired soles. We also took the opportunity to snag a National Parks passport, and chopped it with a Pinnacles stamp, officially inspired to visit other parks.

hiking
Monday, April 17, 2017

One of the best trail I will back soon for hike

hiking
Thursday, April 06, 2017

This is a great trail. At times it's hard to believe you're still in California. We went the reverse route and made a quick loop around some caves which were really cool. Would definitely do again.

hiking
Monday, March 27, 2017

If you have a good portion of the day to explore the park then this is a fantastic trail to take all the way to the High Peaks with so much changing topography. Here are some of my highlights and images to share on the hike http://travelphotodiscovery.com/exploring-pinnacles-national-park/

hiking
Tuesday, February 07, 2017

I recommend going the reverse route and saving the caves for the end of your hike. This trail was moderate...I would not rate this as "hard." We hiked a total of 6.1 miles and it took us about 3 1/2 hours with breaks and exploring the cave. We were lucky enough to see condors at the high peaks! By far the coolest part of the hike is navigating the narrows you climb stairs as steep as a ladder hanging on to a steel bar. I'm terrified of heights and wasn't sure if I could handle this but it was actually a lot of fun! You never feel like you're "on an edge." The safety bars are very sturdy. You have to be able to crawl and duck through narrow small spaces. It's pretty rad! The views were spectacular and the elevation gain was gradual. We started around 1:15 and finished around 4:45. The park visitors center closes at 5:00 this time of year (February) and the last bus back to the parking lot is at 5:30 so don't miss your ride! This trail doesn't offer much tree coverage at all so if you go on a hot day- make sure you're prepared for that. Enjoy this unique hike!

hiking
Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Great trail to give an understanding of the pinnacles area. Fantastic in the spring when wildflowers abound. A bonus is the opportunity to see California condors.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

As mentioned in other reviews there's a $15/vehicle park fee and it's busy later in the day so get there as close to the 9am open as possible on weekend days.

We combined the High Peaks trail with the Bear Gulch and Reservoir trail for about an 8 mile loop.

Started from Bear Gulch day use area and headed through the caves to the reservoir. The caves had a couple really tight sections so not a good way to go if you're claustrophobic. You should also have a headlamp or flashlight if you go this way. We didn't see any of the bats but I think we heard some.

After checking out the reservoir we headed up to High Peaks and then came back down Condor Gulch trail. The climb was great (somewhat strenuous and steep in sections) and the views at the top were amazing. We even did a little scrambling up some of the big rocks at the top which was fun.

Only real complaint was that we didn't see any of the condors, although we saw a lot of wildlife including other birds, lizards, and deer.

Bring a lot of water, the hike is exposed and the air is very dry so you lose water quickly without really knowing it.

hiking
Sunday, September 04, 2016

$15.00 entrance fee to access parking lot nearest to trailhead, visitor center opens at 9 AM.

This was quite the hike; definitely worth the 2 hour drive down from Redwood City. The first leg of the trail is a great, straight up climb of about 1,000 feet spread out over 1 1/2 miles. It's the perfect segment to get your initial workout in so you can ease up and enjoy the scenery once you get to High Peaks.

After you pass the Bear Gulch Junction, the scenery becomes much better and the pinnacles can be clearly seen. The trail narrows and becomes rockier as you pass Hawkins Peak; The Balcony and other trails can be seen in the distance. If you leave early in the morning, you'll be able to see a town covered by fog. There's also an option to weave through the Pinnacles by taking the Tunnel Trail, though it's strenuous both descending and ascending.

To get to the summit of High Peaks, you'll have to climb practically straight up over boulders. Fortunately, footholds and safety railings have been installed to aid you to the summit, but it's still not recommended for the faint of heart. There's also climbing options near the summit of High Peaks.

The rest of the trail is average at best, so to speak. The descent (depending on which route you take) is relatively wide and has many switchbacks. The trail starts getting heavily used come ~10:30 AM; we saw multiple groups and/or families on our descent. You'll eventually reach another parking lot, which is mentally tough due to the fact that you'll want to be done with the hike at this point.

We parked at the end of Chalone Creek road, which was a bad idea. The 1.8-mile Bear Gulch trail leading back to the parking lot offers little scenery or challenge, especially in September, when the creek is dried up and there's very little green grass. This downgrades my rating from a 5-star to a 4-star trail. If you can, taking the Tunnel Trail/Juniper Canyon up to High Peaks would be a better idea. It's roughly half the length, but it appears more strenuous with a lot of scenery. When I come back, I'll be sure to do that.

hiking
Sunday, June 12, 2016

This place was amazing! The initial climb is not for the faint of heart, as said below in another review. Please know that if you plan on going from June/ September it will be very warm as there is not shade on this trail. Bring extra water, bug spray, sunblock, hat, and proper shoes. Honestly, your Nike free's shouldn't be worn on any hike. Bring your camera, it's gorgeous out there!

hiking
Saturday, May 21, 2016

Absolutely incredible after the initial climb!!!

hiking
Monday, May 02, 2016

It was an exciting discovery! I'm glad to change our target summit from North Chalone to High Peaks. Not for the faint of heart. Climbing the rocks was fun but please be careful.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Exquisite spring time hike requiring 5 hours, with time to rest and eat. Condor, turkey vultures and peragrin falcon sitting are common. Wild flower blooms expected.

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