4 Best Hikes in Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park Overview

Pinnacles National Park is one of the smallest national parks in the country with only 30+ miles of hiking trails. Those 30 miles have quite a bit to offer visitors from caves to towering rock spires formed by erupted volcanoes 23 million years ago. The 4 best hikes in Pinnacles National Park are below and several can be combined to make longer, more difficult circuits.

StateCalifornia
Nearest Metro AreaSan Jose, CA
Area Size26,606 acres
EstablishedJanuary 10, 2013
Hiking Trails30 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Pinnacles National Park

High Peaks Loop
Pinnacles
View west from High Peaks trail, Photo by Jim Bahn

This is one of the quintessential hikes in California, not just one of the best hikes in Pinnacles National Park. A rocky and steep trail will get you to the high pinnacles that the park was named after. Along the way you will have gorgeous views of the surrounding area, pass amazing rock formations, and have a great chance of seeing the California Condor! The entire loop is a combination of High Peaks Trail, Condor Gulch Trail and Bear Gulch Trail. The trailhead can be accessed in the Bear Gulch Day Use Area.

  • 5.3 mile loop
  • 1400′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Balconies Cave Loop
Balconies Caves Trail - Pinnacles National Park
Balconies Caves Trail – Pinnacles National Park, Photo by Joyce Cory

For a cave trail, this hike has some beautiful views along the way – Machete Ridge to the east and the Balconies to the west. Once you reach the cave, use a flashlight to find your way through to where the trail opens up on the other side. Take Balconies Cliff Trail back. The trailhead can be found at the Chaparral Picnic parking area.

  • 2.6 mile loop
  • 400′ elevation gain
  • Easy
Chalone Peak Trail
South and North Chalone Peaks of the Gabilan Range, Photo by Miguel Vieira

Taking the Rim Trail will get you to the Chalone Peak Trail where hikers can climb up to the highest peak in the park. This is one of the best hikes in Pinnacles for the views it has in addition to the possibility of seeing the rare California Condor. The trailhead is located in the Bear Gulch Day Use Area.

  • 7.7 miles out and back
  • 2050′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Bear Gulch Cave Trail
Little Pinnacles and Bear Gulch Reservoir
Little Pinnacles and Bear Gulch Reservoir, Photo by David Prasad

Another fun hike for the family to enjoy as they hike to the talus caves and past rock formations. Again, remember to bring your flashlight so you can squeeze through the tight spaces. The hike can also be added on to the end of High Peaks Trail on your way back to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. The trailhead is in the same parking area; take Moses Spring Trail to get to the cave.

  • 1.8 miles out and back
  • 300′ elevation gain
  • Easy

Featured Image: Pinnacles National Park, Photo by Samartur

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