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Hike in Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park, California

Details

Distance

8 miles

Elevation Gain

1800 ft

Route Type

Loop

Description

Added by Kyle Reader

This is an 8-mile hike that will let you experience everything that makes Pinnacles National Park special. You'll be surrounded by amazing rock formations, cross creeks and explore a cave! If you are lucky, you may even see a California condor, a species the park is working to protect.

Pinnacles National Park is the newest addition to the US Parks family, only becoming a National Park in 2013. One of the best hiking loops to let you fully experience the park is The High Peaks to Balconies Cave Loop Trail. The trail will start at the base of Pinnacles' large rock formations, working up to High Peaks trail, and then loop back along a creek surrounding the park. If weather conditions are agreeable, you may be able to pass through the Balconies Cave as you finish the loop. 

Getting to the trailhead 

Located in Central California, Pinnacles National Park is accessible from the California 146. From the 101, go to Soledad and then head east on California 146. You will enter the west side of the park, and pass the Visitor Contact Station. Keep following the 146 until it ends at Chaparral parking lot. Start your hike via the Juniper Canyon Trail heading south. 

Juniper Canyon to High Peaks Trail 

The first mile of the hike will take you upward towards the Tunnel Trail for about 1.2 miles. This is where the majority of this hike's elevation gain occurs. This portion also has some of the best views of the bulging rock formations that make Pinnacles stand out. Once you ascend via the Tunnel Trail, follow the path northwest for about a half a mile and you'll reach Hawkins Peak. Enjoy one of the best view points in the park before continuing onward.  

High Peaks Trail to Old Pinnacles Trail

Continue to follow High Peaks Trail northwest through the higher rock formations. This portion can be jagged and you will be going over rocks, so be careful with your footing as you continue. Along High Peaks trail you may see some of the amazing California condors, so be on the look out! High Peaks will start to descend and after 2 miles you will reach Old Pinnacles Trail. 

Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies Trail

Taking Old Pinnacles trail north you will follow a creek along the exterior of the park, in a counter clockwise direction. This is very comfortable portion of the trail, flat and calm. Depending on the time of year you go, the creek water may be higher, so expect that you may have to do a few crossings. After about 2.3 miles you will reach Balconies Cave Trail. This will take you through the Balconies Cave, if it is open to hikers at the time. If not, the Balconies Trail goes northeast around the caves. There is some slight elevation gain on this outer trail. In about 1.8 miles you will return to the Chaparral parking lot. 

The total hike is about 8 miles, making it a wonderful half- or full-day adventure through the park.  Hope you enjoy Pinnacles National Park as much as we did! 

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Features

Hiking
Family Friendly
Forest
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildlife
ADA Accessible

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Balconies Cave Trail

Hike the Juniper Canyon, High Peaks, Tunnel Trail Loop in Pinnacles NP