- Karla Gadea
Pinnacles National Park is hidden just south of San Jose in the Gabilan Mountains, and is a short drive from the San Francisco Area. Some 23 million years ago multiple volcanoes erupted, flowed, and slid to form what has become Pinnacles National Park. Travelers are able to witness chaparral, oak woodlands, and canyon bottoms. Hikers can enter rare talus caves, that house at least thirteen species of bat and emerge to towering rock spires teeming with life. Within the National Park System lie some of this nation’s most amazing caves. Pinnacles has activities like climbing, hiking, caving, and wildlife viewing.
Pinnacles offers solitude, challenge, and escape from the urban interface of both the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas.
Season: Unlike many national parks, Pinnacles is most popular in the cooler months.During the summer, extreme temperatures can make hiking uncomfortable, and possibly dangerous for those who are unprepared. If you plan to visit Pinnacles from late May through early September, please make sure to check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. During spring, when the grasses are green and a variety of wildflowers can be seen along any trail, hiking is at its best. Fall and winter are also excellent times to visit. Winters have moderate rainfall, mild highs and cold lows, summers are extremely dry and have very hot days and very cool nights.
Balconies Cave: Grab your headlamp and head to the west side of Pinnacles National Park for a trek into Balconies Cave. This fun 2-mile out and back hike or 2.4-mile lollipop loop hike crosses a playground of volcanic rock formations and journeys through the dark, twisting passages of Balconies Cave. The most direct route to the cave (described here) takes Balconies Trail from Chaparral Trailhead on the west side of the park. Balconies Cave may also be reached from Old Pinnacles Trailhead on the east side of the park by hiking up Old Pinnacles Trail for a 5 or 5.4-mile hike, or as part of the grander High Peaks – Balconies Cave Loop, which passes both trailheads.
Bear Gulch Reservoir: The short interesting hike to Bear Gulch Reservoir ascends a beautiful boulder-filled gorge on the east side of Pinnacles National Park (known as Pinnacles National Monument prior to 2013). A split in the trail offers two parallel routes to reach the reservoir. Bear Gulch Cave Trail climbs through a talus cave, while Moses Spring Trail takes a scenic but less daring course along the rim of the gorge. The trails reunite and arrive at Bear Gulch Reservoir, 3/4 of a mile from the start. The Cave Trail closes periodically to accommodate the bats that reside there. When Bear Gulch Cave is open, it should not be missed.
High Peaks – Condor Gulch Loop: The High Peaks of Pinnacles National Park (formerly known as Pinnacles National Monument) are a one of a kind collection of sky-pointed spires that provide fascinating scenery and a robust hiking experience. The adventurous hike across the top of the Pinnacles crosses a steep, narrow, and impressively constructed trail that is a highlight of any visit to the park. The High Peaks can be reached from the east or west entrance (There are no roads traveling across Pinnacles National Park). The heart of the rugged park is only accessible on foot via a well-maintained network of trails.
How long should I stay? 2-3 days
Hiking, Trails, Picnic, Nature Walks, Caves
Winter, Spring, Fall
Additional Logding Options
Valley Harvest Inn (1155 Front St, Soledad, CA 93960)
Phone: (831) 678-3833
Best Western Apricot Inn (46290 W Panoche Rd, Firebaugh, CA 93622)
Phone: (559) 659-1444
Inn at the Pinnacles (32025 Stonewall Canyon Rd, Soledad, CA 93960)
Phone: (831) 678-2400