Be ready to witness massive and eye-opening rock formations at just one of the more than 400 parks in the U.S. National Park System, Pinnacle’s National Park. Not only that, but you will encounter caves, wildflowers (over 100 species), running water, wildlife, and even the occasional condor. There is no wonder why there is so much to see as the rock formations and caves were classified as a national monument in 1908 for protection and the 1964 Wilderness Act classified around 16,000 acres of Pinnacle’s National Park as wilderness to protect the land itself. It was in 2013 when it became an official national park (now covering over 26,000 acres).
There are two entrances into Pinnacle’s National Park: East and West. There are eight trails on the east side of the park and four trails on the west side. If you decided to hike all of these trails, you will be traveling for over 30 miles. There is a trail for all hikers as difficult levels range from easy to strenuous. All 12 trails include:
Condor Gulch Trail – 1.7 miles one way. Elevation gain of 1,100 ft.
Moses Spring-Rim Trail Loop – 2.2 miles around loop. Elevation gain of 500 ft.
Balconies Cliffs-Balconies Cave Loop – 2.4 miles around loop. Elevation gain of 100 ft.
Juniper Canyon Loop – 4.3 miles around loop. Elevation gain of 1,215 ft.
Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies Cave – 5.3 miles round trip. Elevation gain of 0 ft.
Condor Gulch-High Peaks Loop – 5.3 miles around loop. Elevation gain of 1,300 ft.
South Wilderness Trail – 6.5 miles round trip. Elevation gain of 0 ft.
High Peaks-Bear Gulch Loop – 6.7 miles around loop. Elevation gain of 1,425 ft.
High Peaks-Balconies Cave Loop – 8.4 miles around loop. Elevation gain of 1,540 ft.
Chalone Peak Trail – 9.0 miles round trip. Elevation gain of 2,040 ft.
North Wilderness Trail Loop – 9.3 miles around loop. Elevation gain of 1,020 ft.
Pinnacles Visitor Center to Balconies Cave – 9.4 miles round trip. Elevation gain of 300 ft.
There are two talus caves at Pinnacle’s National Park, which means that each was created by boulders creating a roof above a narrow canyon. Both the Balconies Cave and Bear Gulch Cave are dark and a flashlight is required to pass through. There are several areas in the caves that are narrow, have low ceilings, or slippery, so pass through with caution. The Bear Gulch Cave is closed seasonally in order to protect Townsend’s big eared bats.
Aside from just hiking, you can even go rock climbing. It is recommended that only well-trained and properly equipped climbers partake in technical rock climbing. Compared to granite and basalt that are ideal for outdoor rock climbing, the volcanic breccia and tuff rocks at Pinnacle’s National Park can be weak, unstable, and dangerous. Climb with caution.
Grab your bags because it is time to head over to Pinnacle’s National Park down by the bay.