Pinnacles – California


High Peaks trail ascent | Balconies Cave | The Pinnacles


Date of Visit: July 4-5, 2018

How we got there: Drove from Sequoia NP, about four hours from the Foothills Visitor Center.

Pinnacles Campground The only lodging inside the park. Site 35 was nice and shady, but the trees immediately above the tent became a playground for squawking bluebirds at sunrise.


At the recommendation of a ranger, we made a late afternoon 10-mile loop by connecting the High Peaks, Juniper Canyon, Balconies and Old Pinnacles trails. This route took us through many of the park’s highlights.

  • High Peaks – Hike amongst soaring rock spires at the top of the High Peaks Trail. There are steep, narrow steps carved from rock and amazing views of the surrounding valleys and the San Andreas Rift Zone. We spotted condors in flight nearing the summit.
  • Balconies Cave – On the return portion of the loop, we passed through talus (rockfall) caves requiring flashlights.
  • Bear Gulch – Many trails set off from the Bear Gulch day use area. We made a small 2-mile loop on the Moses Spring and Rim trails to the reservoir and back. The caves on this trail are closed seasonally to protect bats.
  • Lack of crowds – After spending time in the major parks in the Sierras it felt like we had this smaller, lesser-known park nearly to ourselves.

Tips: There’s not much in the way of services inside Pinnacles (just a small visitor center and camp store) and no significant towns nearby, so plan to pack in the supplies and food you need.
Summer is very hot here. Plan to either hike early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Next time: Hike to the park’s high point on the Chalone Peak Trail.