Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies

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Pinnacles National Park

Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies is a 5.1 mile heavily 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.

Distance: 5.1 miles Elevation Gain: 495 feet Route Type: Loop


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.

I would recommend this trail in the winter because it is a very exposed trail and bring waterproof shoes and a flashlight for the caves.

4 months ago

Perfect hiking weather. Great trail for the first of the year.

Loved it ~ the cave is super cool! Make sure to have hiking shoes on for good grip !

Gorgeous in the fall and much cooler. Hit it during a rain storm—not too bad, but got really wet in the cave.

6 months ago

Fun, fairly easy trail, except for the caves which require both a flashlight and a spirit of adventure! Both my teens had fun in the cave and enjoyed it better than the one at Bear Gulch, in the morning, in late November, the trail from the parking lot to the cave was nicely shaded for much of the way.

Amazing views once you get to them! Great for first time hikers as well as experienced ones. Would love to come back and complete this hike at night!

Fairly easy trail out to Balconies Cave. Really impressive views at the end of the trail. The park ranger said it would be a great night hike since the caves are completely dark in some places. So we left around 6pm (sunset was 6:50) and got out of the caves just as it was sun was almost gone. The hike back is not for the faint of heart. It was dark and every sense was on high alert. Less than a mile from the end we encountered another hiker stopped, because of 2 rattlesnakes in the trail!! It was only an hour-ish delay otherwise we would have done the loop in well under 3 hours (we were moving fast on the trip back).

no shade
9 months ago

Great but hot. Bring a lot of water. More than you think you need. Very little shade. Many hikers reported rattlesnake.

9 months ago

The trail to the caves was okay. It was pretty flat and very easy. It’s more of an out and back than a loop. There’s a small loop at the end. The caves were fun for my kids. They had a good time exploring. We did see a couple rattlesnakes, which scared my kids to death, but they kept to themselves. The trail was mostly empty until we got back to the end. We really enjoyed this trail. Bring lots of water.

10 months ago

Hiked to the caves which were beautiful! Bring a flashlight because they’re dark in some spots

Tue May 28 2019

Very good trail and views! the caves can be crowded, but no big deal.

Fri Apr 19 2019

Nice hike, very few people on the trail today. Started at 830am so there was plenty of parking and the weather was nice and cool.

Tue Jan 01 2019

Hiked this trail in November and it was awesome. It was raining at the time so the puddles near the caves made it somewhat difficult to get through without soaking our shoes. Otherwise it was beautiful and had a great view.

Fri Dec 28 2018

Hiked September 2018. Easy hike - rock formations are unusual and the huge boulders at the entrance to the caves are impressive. Bring a flashlight.

Thu Nov 01 2018

Nice little hike to do in the afternoon when the heat of the day starts fading (we visited mid-June). There isn't much to the first 2/3 of the hike, the Balconies Caves and Balconies themselves are fun though. Nevertheless, if you only can do one hike in Pinnacles, do one in the High Peaks/Condor Gulch instead.

Fri Oct 19 2018

So the reviews made here were very useful in completing my hike yesterday. It was a little hot, but also you need to drink a lot on the way back to stay hydrated, the creeks are dry do no real water source. Insects were not a problem like they can be. This is a flat trail through woods, watch for wildlife. Saw one falcon. This is a truly awesome not to be missed hike, should have led with this. Go for the views especially rock formations around the caves mountain backdrop. Crowds were not a problem on a Wednesday. Virtual Treadmill video of this hike can be seen on my YouTube Channel, copy and paste link below to watch it. Thanks. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFO02nxPdM4-CabegFIPlow?view_as=subscriber

Sat Sep 15 2018

Very nice decently flat trail. A LOT of poison oak off of the trail. Of you stay in the middle, you’re safe. The caves are nice and cool literally and figuratively. Thankfully no bugs. Mosquitoes drive me crazy. I would definitely like to return in cooler weather and after a good rain. Bring a flashlight!

Sat Sep 15 2018

Beautiful scenery, very flat and easy trail to get to the caves. Balconies cave was a fun, short climb around and over rocks. My 4 year old was able to navigate it with no problem so I think that this would be a great family trail. Parking lot is small so I recommend arriving early. Trail is also pretty exposed in the afternoon so bring a lot of water on hot days.

Mon May 28 2018

Did this yesterday over Memorial Day weekend. It was great. Very flat besides the loop which was not too much elevation. The caves were awesome.

Tue Apr 17 2018

Leisure, picturesque walk that leads to spectacular rock formations that are so fun to venture around in. Enjoy the dark cave that you lower yourself down into, through damp boulders, to find the hidden natural spring.

Sun Apr 15 2018

This trail was part of our 12.5 miles loop, a pleasant hike with shades and tranquil with birds, wild flower, small creek along the trail.

Wed Apr 04 2018

A great hike that doesn’t take all day but have some fun qualities. The cave was a great part of the hike.

Tue May 23 2017

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!

Sat Apr 22 2017

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

Thu Apr 20 2017

Beautiful spring flower in April!

Sat Apr 15 2017

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.

Wed Mar 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.

Wed Jan 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.

Wed Nov 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: https://www.nps.gov/pinn/planyourvisit/cavestatus.htm 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.

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