• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Reviews

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This hike was stunning. Two of us tackled the Bear Gulch to High Peaks trail in 3.5 hours. The trail took us first to the gulch, where the hills around us were reflected beautifully in the still water. We then climbed about 1400 feet up into the High Peaks. Stunning views!! Be a bit brave and scramble to the top of a huge boulder to take it all in. Then descend down the Condor ridge trail. Tip: start early in the morning during summer months as it gets HOT.

8 months ago
8 months ago

The first time passing by Pinnacles we decided to skip it as we didn't know if it was worth the detour. I am SO glad we went back and decided to check it out. One of my favorite spots in CA. Best part was the lack of crowds compared to other NPs in the state.

8 months ago
8 months ago

Pinnacles National Park in Central California is a fantastic place for outdoor fun and adventure if you love hiking, climbing or even photography. Here are some of my favorite highlights on where I visited, hiked and photographed this spectacular park http://travelphotodiscovery.com/travel-photo-postcard-pinnacles-national-park/ Enjoy the park

11 months ago
11 months ago

We took a group of 15 students to Pinnacles this past weekend. March is Condor "mating season" so we got to see many of these spectacular birds. Get there early - the parking lot near the trail head was full before noon, so the national park was shuttling people back and forth (and the line was quite lengthy). The caves were also closed due to flooding from recent rains - be sure to check the website before you go!

12 months ago
12 months ago

Pinnacles is a place you could spend months on end at. Although nature tends to be that way. I have spent some time in Pinnacles National Park. From sunrise to sunset and every inch of Park property is worth exploring!

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

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

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

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!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

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!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

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!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

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

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

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

almost 3 years ago
almost 3 years ago

Get there early

about 3 years ago
about 3 years ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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