Josh and I, on our recent trip up the Pacific Coast Highway, made a detour and spent a full day hiking in Pinnacles National Park in California. Pinnacles was made a National Monument in 1908 and then was promoted to a National Park in 2013.
Pinnacles is known for its resident California Condors as well as its distinctive mountain peaks. We visited in April on a beautiful blue sky day. We mapped out a plan to hike most of the entire park in one day.
We started out early at the Old Pinnacles Trailhead on the east side of the park. We followed the Old Pinnacles Trail for 1.3 miles to the Balconies area. We crisscrossed over creeks and watched for wildlife on the way.
Arriving in the Balconies area, we could take a detour around them or go thru them. The Balconies are a series of caves formed by landslides. We of course went thru them. We had headlamps so we could see as we scampered through the .4 miles of caves. Part of the way is completely dark so the headlamps are necessary.
We came out the other side of the Balconies and traveled .6 miles to the Chaparral picnic area. We could see large black birds flying overhead, but weren’t sure if they were California Condors or just turkey buzzards.
We then picked up the Juniper Canyon Trail for 1.6 miles, most of it was switchbacks as we picked up a lot of elevation as we ascended into the High Peaks area.
We then arrived at the junction where we had to choose to continue on Juniper Canyon or take the scenic route around the High Peaks on the .6 mile Tunnel Trail to the .7 mile Steep and Narrow Trail which then joins back to Juniper Canyon. We of course took the scenic route.
The views in this area were amazing. Both California Condors and turkey buzzards were flying all around us. The series of ladders and ledges reminded me of the fun I had hiking in Acadia National Park. The High Peaks area was so much fun I wish we had hung out in this area longer.
From here we took the 1.5 mile High Peaks trail down to the Bear Gulch area stopping along the way for lunch. This trail was all downhill taking us out of the High Peaks area. At the bottom we traveled on three small trail sections that totaled .8 miles to connect to the Condor Gulch Trail. Much of the Bear Gulch area was wooded and a different climate than the rest of where we hiked.
The Condor Gulch Trail is a 1.7 mile hike back up to the High Peaks Trail. Hiking up the mountains again wore me down and I took less pictures. About halfway is an overlook down into Bear Gulch. Once we connected with the High Peaks Trail we descended for another 2 miles until we came to the Old Pinnacles Trail for another mile back to our trailhead where we had parked.
Here is the map of the area we hiked. We covered 11.8 miles and saw most of the park. The High Peaks were gorgeous and so much fun to hike. Pinnacles is a little under the radar National Park but it is worthy and a great place to visit. rk