Guidebook

5 of the Best Hikes in Pinnacles National Park

Explore a little-visited national park packed with stunning scenery and geological formations.

Greg Heil

Description

Pinnacles National Park moved from national monument to national park status in 2013, forming one of the most under-the-radar national parks in the country. This "26,000-acre park protects a distinct pocket of inland mountains that is not connected to the larger Santa Lucia Range to the west," writes HikesPeak.com.

While Pinnacles might be isolated, the beauty of the landscape captivates all who visit it with its volcanic peaks, vaulted rock pinnacles, and rare talus caves. "Travelers journey through chaparral, oak woodlands, and canyon bottoms," writes the NPS. At first this rocky landscape might seem desolate, but you'll find that the park is actually "teeming with life: prairie and peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and the inspiring California condor," according to the NPS.

In this guidebook, you'll find five of the best hikes on the park's 30 miles of trails. First up, the Bear Gulch Cave hike might be short, but it leads to one of the national park's top attractions. Similarly, the Balconies Cave is also very popular.

The High Peaks Trail is the best option for getting up close and personal with the pinnacles themselves. Be forewarned: this hike gets steep and technical in places. While some handrails and small steps have been constructed, some sections of this trail are still dramatically exposed! If you're hoping to leave some of the crowds behind, try approaching High Peaks from the Juniper Canyon side.

Finally, if you're looking for a longer hike, set your sights on North Chalone Peak, the tallest mountain in the park. Rising to a height of 3,306 feet above sea level, you'll gain stunning views over the entire region from North Chalone's summit.

North Chalone Peak
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

North Chalone Peak

3 - 4 hrs
12.6 km
635 m
635 m
The highest peak in Pinnacles National Park, rising to a height of 3,306 feet above sea level.
Difficult
Private
Bear Gulch Cave
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Bear Gulch Cave

0 - 1 hrs
2.3 km
112 m
112 m
One of the most popular hikes in Pinnacles National Park
Moderate
Private
Juniper Canyon -> Tunnel Trail Lollipop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Juniper Canyon -> Tunnel Trail Lollipop

2 - 3 hrs
6.4 km
401 m
401 m
This lollipop loop provides a little-hiked and quite technical approach to the High Peaks in Pinnacles National Park.
Severe
Private
High Peaks and Condor Gulch Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

High Peaks and Condor Gulch Loop

2 - 3 hrs
8.0 km
463 m
463 m
Exciting trail along the jagged backbone of the Pinnacles, with steep stairs and drop-offs protected by metal rails.
Difficult
Private
Balconies Cave and Cliffs Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Balconies Cave and Cliffs Loop

1 - 2 hrs
4.2 km
108 m
108 m
A main attraction of Pinnacles National Park is the Balconies Cave––a cool passageway beneath giant boulders jumbled in a deep canyon.
Moderate
Private