Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies

MODERATE 38 reviews
#6 of 24 trails in

Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies is a 5.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Paicines, California that features a cave and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is accessible year-round.

5.1 miles
495 feet


nature trips



no dogs

Directions from Soledad: Follow Highway 146 12 miles to the Chaparral Ranger Station. From the ranger station walk northeastward on the Balconies Trail. At the fork in the trail, .6 miles from the trailhead, take either side. The Balconies Trail loop ends at the Old Pinnacles Trail.

9 months ago

I arrived the trailhead around 8:30am on Sunday and only two cars in the parking lot.
This trail is described as a 'lollipop' in the park guide and the sweetest spot is definitely the cave!
The first part of the trail is kind of boring and I was wondering how come this was promoted to a national park. After entering the cave, I was confused and thought it's a dead end but finally figured out after tried all the possible directions.
The overall experience is awesome and definitely worth a try.

Did this hike yesterday and loved it! It was not difficult, mostly flat and about 5 miles long but the cave was fun and more difficult to get through with some rocky areas!

I would recommend this hike to someone but would prefer to explore other trails in this park when I go back!

10 months ago

Weather was great 78, Lightly trailed trail this time of year

11 months ago

Beautiful spring flower in April!

11 months ago

Did this hike on April 14, 2017. It was the perfect time to do this hike. It was warm in the sun but cool enough to not sweat. There are a couple of places you have to cross a small stream to continue the trail but most of the trail was dry with dirt, rocks or sand. Just before entering the caves there is a little spot that you have to crouch down use your hands to help get you through safely. The Pinnacles Guidebook says this trail to the Chapparl parking lot and back takes 4-5 hours. That is pretty accurate. Me and my 15 year old did it in 4.5 hours and that included sitting down to eat lunch at the chaparral parking lot (where there are picnic tables and bathrooms) and lots of opportunities where we stopped to take photos.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

After 2 months without any hikes, this was sure a kick start to our monthly hike. Nice hike , be prepared for the cold and refreshing cave water stream. I would go back again for the cave experience anytime.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Started from peak view trail head and did Old Pinnacle trail to Balconies. Initially the walk was just ok but eventually you start seeing rock formations that come into view and it's as if you walked/hiked to a completely different state. Great views very impressive. Made it to the point where we had to decide go left to Balconies cliff trail or the caves. Went cliff trail route & that was the "wow" section. Very nice. Then on to the caves. Was told by several people to have a flashlight and I must say you definitely need some form of light. Be it your phone light or headlamp. Not smart to try and navigate without a light. Definitely worth the drive and hike.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

This is an amazing cave trail!

Balconies Cave is larger than the Bear Gulch Lower Cave. I can't compare it to the Bear Gulch Upper Cave as it was closed when we visited.

Before attempting to hike to Balconies Cave, make sure you check if it is open. It is sometimes closed for weather (E.g., in case a flash flood is possible). Here is the site to check the status:


I would check that before heading out (or ask a ranger) so you don't hike to a dead end.

We hiked this trail in November in the rain, but thankfully the cave remained open. We saw some people on the trail, but not many. There were more in and around the cave itself as there is a parking lot and shorter trail to reach the cave, which bypasses the Old Pinnacles Trail portion of this hike.

The hike was beautiful and the rain gave it a lovely coloration. The trail is a lollipop and in total you will cross the creek five times in each direction (only one is actually on a little bridge). For us the creek was mostly dry (only two of those seven times had any water at all), although in the spring following a wet winter these might be challenging.

The cave was extraordinary. It is however, pitch black in some sections so flashlights or head lamps are a must. It would also be helpful to bring gloves as several points in the cave require difficult maneuvering and fitting through tight spaces. Hiking through the cave through the Old Pinnacles Trail does point you in an easier direction thou. There is one point in the cave where you need to almost boulder in the darkness to get up to the opening. That segment would have been much more difficult going down than up.

Once through the cave, you go back via the Balconies Cliffs before meeting back up with the Old Pinnacles Trail. Watch for this sign so you don't miss the turn or you'll wind up on the longer Wilderness Trail.

This trail and cave was awesome - we actually ate our lunch in the cave itself! When visiting Pinnacles National Park make sure not to miss this one.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Really nice hike, with good combo of sun/shade and mostly flat. Caveat, we missed a turn in the caves and wound up scrambling up a really steep, dangerous wall, thinking it was the trail. It was _A_ trail and eventually, we found the real trail.

horseback riding
Sunday, March 13, 2016

Did this as part of a 10 mile loop around the park. Not very crowded here. There was one point in the North end that I went a hour without seeing someone. Its very easy, lots of small stream crossings over the same creek. A great time, pretty shaded for the most part.

Friday, February 12, 2016

nice easy trail.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

This is a mostly flat, easy hike to reach the caves and see the Balconies. There are sections of shaded and unshaded trail along the way.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Thought this was a really cool hike!
Went with 5 other friends.

Lucky us it was free because of the holiday weekend. It trekked us through diverse landscapes. Suitable for the beginner adventurer with little equipment needed (a flashlight is quite handy for the cave portion, even though it was pretty short). We started at the east entrance and hit the caves first. It felt like just the right length with some decent climbing. There is also a section specifically for before the cave for rock climbers :o There were parts that were shaded, while others out under the sun (especially when we went up the condor gulch portion).

The entire trail is a loop with small routes to cut the loop shorter. Shuttles run during the day to take visitors from one entrance to the other. There were quite a few rangers that day, all of whom were very friendly and informative.

The loop we took was almost 10 ish miles. Combined with relatively cool weather (70 ish)... it was perfect :D

As always, bring water, sunblock, hat, snacks and other essentials.

Didn't use hiking sticks for this one, some others in the group did (but it would have been useful going up Condor Gulch)

Hike vid: https://youtu.be/GrvAlBQSSdg

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Wonderful hiking for all! Caves very enjoyable but please take flashlight. We just came back from there and are looking forward to visiting the park in the spring time with the flowers in bloom.

1 month ago

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday, October 31, 2016

Thursday, October 06, 2016

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