Explore Pinnacles National Park

San Francisco Pinnacles National Park

Added by Pascual Dutton

  • An easy, really fun day trip for bay area residents.
  • Explore two caves, a reservoir, and a myriad of wildlife.
  • The scenery is epic and truly shines at dusk and dawn.
  • A great winter hike, as the summer months can get hot.

It’s hard to believe how many people don’t know about this place, which was newly designated as a National Park in January 2013. Pinnacles National Park is hidden just south of San Jose in the Gabilan Mountains, and is a short drive for anyone living in the Bay Area.

With beautiful rock spires piercing the horizon, huge boulders, inviting caves, light crowds, and endangered California condors floating high above, Pinnacles National Park gives off a very spiritual vibe. There are thirteen well-maintained hiking trails that weave across the park’s 26,000 acres.

There are multiple hiking options, depending on the amount of time you have and the level of difficulty you’re looking for. My favorite 4-5 hour hike is the Bear Gulch to High Peaks trail, a 6.7-mile loop that allows you to hit a lot of the park’s highlights. This is easiest accessed via the park’s East Entrance. You’ll begin by exploring the Bear Gulch caves (you’ll need your headlamp/flashlight), then up to the reservoir, and finally to the Steep and Narrow route to the High Peaks. The Steep and Narrow route includes some steep and semi-challenging hiking, as well as a bit of scrambling, but the views from the top are simply amazing.

Parking is $5/vehicle for day use, paid at the visitor center. The west entrance is open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The east entrance is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 831-389-4486.

Be sure to dress in layers – it can be warm on the trail and cool in the caves. If you have hiking boots, I would recommend using them. Bring plenty of water.

Pack List

  • Sturdy hiking shoes
  • A headlamp or flashlight for the caves
  • Layers for the caves
  • Lots of water
  • Camera
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Activities:

Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Year Round

Rating:

Features:

Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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How to Get There

8 months ago

Great Hike If Starting Early

I just did this hike today- it was beautiful. We took bear gulch to high Peaks trail. The views were incredible. The hike itself was moderate and occasionally strenuous. Some areas along this hike require you to stoop,bend,twist, and or climb a bit so be prepared. We arrived at the park at 0830 and people were already filling in. By the time we left (13:30 ) there was a line of cars trying to get in, and the park rangers were controlling the flow of traffic. This is Easter weekend though but I'm sure in peak season this is frequently the case. The only area of true congestion that we experienced was around the top of the Peak. There were lots of large, loud, obnoxious groups but the rest of the hike was moderately private. Animal life was great! Some lizards scuffled around but the Condors were incredible! They are massive and great to watch. This hike is worth the drive,worth the weekend crowd, and worth waking up early for. Total time for our hike with a group of four on this loop with stopping and exploring and taking photos was 4HR25min

8 months ago

9 months ago

Great Place

One of my favorite places. Did not bring any climbing gear but will be ready for next time. Get there early and spend the day till dusk because the views are worth it!

9 months ago

9 months ago

A Different Side California

There are many different trails of varying difficulty allowing you to choose how much effort you want to put in. But even the most moderate of trails offer adventure and great views. It's hard to not feel connected with the terrain as you pass through caves, over hanging rocks and ridge lines. The size of it all just takes your breath away. A must see!

9 months ago

10 months ago

Great climbing and hiking

Another hidden gem close to the Bay Area! If you are a climber there are few outdoor spots close to SF that compare to this. Also the hiking is incredible with endless views. Keep your eyes out for Condors!

10 months ago

over 1 year ago

Great climbing here, too. Bring a helmet, though. It can be pretty chossy!

over 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

Make sure to leave before nightfall. We had a rough encounter with a local gang when heading out toward the 101.

over 1 year ago

almost 2 years ago

Get there early

almost 2 years ago

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