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High Peaks Trail

HARD 93 reviews
#4 of 27 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 bird watching and is accessible year-round.

Distance: 6.3 miles Elevation Gain: 1,771 feet Route Type: Loop


bird watching


wild flowers




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.

25 days ago

High peaks trail is one of the best hikes in California. Take bug spray for the caves. And plenty of water.

1 month ago

We just did this hike...spectacular! a real break in the weather. 82 was the high. If you're there to see the condors here's a tip. Do some homework and make sure you can tell the difference between a turkey vulture and a condor. They look very similar. There are turkey vulture everywhere around the park and intermixed with the condors. Once you understand the way they fly, which is different than condors, you're good to go. To the inexperienced eye they are very similar. The most defining feature is the coloration of the feather underneath the wings. This is easy to identify because you'll be looking up at the birds in flight. Get a comparative chart and study it and once you know what you're looking for it's easy to tell the difference. Condor usually fly higher than the vultures but not always. Binocular are a must to get really a good view. Once you see a condor soar you'll never forget it.

1 month ago

This trail is NO JOKE. 1) The visitor center says to bring a liter of water per person per hour, and I highly recommend you follow that. I’ve never experienced heat exhaustion before (I’m from Texas), but if we hadn’t made it to the end when we did, I might’ve passed out. 2) It’s doable in the fall-spring months, I’m sure, but we literally had to stop every 5-10 minutes, and took advantage of most shady spots we could find. Some were tiny, but we NEEDED it. It’s a great trail and a great workout replacement, but come prepared. Snacks and lots of water are a must. I’m not asthmatic, but the peak elevation is 2500’ and, man, was it difficult to catch my breath. Especially in the 92° feels like 109° weather.

6 months ago

Beautiful outcrops and a slight workout. Well worth your time

7 months ago

Very nice this time of year. I recommend bringing water in a back pack. One 12 oz bottle didn't cut it for me.

11 months ago

Great views of interesting rock formations and really unique trails.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Bring plenty of water! Worth the short detour for stopping at the reservoir and caves on the way.

Friday, August 03, 2018

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

Sunday, July 08, 2018

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.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

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.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

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.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

so fun

Saturday, January 27, 2018

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

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.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

beautiful hike!!

Friday, December 15, 2017

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

Great hike! It is steep but well worth it!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

Monday, April 17, 2017

One of the best trail I will back soon for hike

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.

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

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!

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.

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