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Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop

Pinnacles National Park

Gabilan + Southern Diablo Mountains, California

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Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop

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  • Across from the Peaks View parking lot.- Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • Entry to the Bench Trail in Pinnacles National Monument.- Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • A steep section along the Bench Trail.- Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • Restrooms are provided at Scout Peak.- Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • Rest and enjoy the view from Scout Peak.- Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • Wildflowers are abundant along the trails.- Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • An break from the switchbacks in Juniper Canyon in Pinnacles National Monument.- Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • View from the Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • The Bench Trail and High Peaks Loop, Pinnacles National Monument. - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  • - Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Low entrance fee. Fantastic views. A variety of wildflowers and wildlife.
Cons: 
Poison oak on hiking trails. Congested parking.
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Region:
Gabilan + Southern Diablo Mountains, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
No
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Fall
Total Distance: 
11.00 mi (17.70 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
856.00 ft (260.91 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

According to the National Park Service, "the Pinnacles Rocks are believed to be part of the Neenach Volcano that occurred 23 million years ago near present-day Lancaster, California, some 195 miles (314 km) southeast." While the size of this extraordinary formation may challenge your imagination, the High Peaks Trail is an excellent introduction to the area. The route leads through a variety of terrain, exploring the high and low perspectives and leading through some of the best of what this National Monument has to offer.

You can start at either the east or west entrance of the park, as both lead to the top. If the parking lot for the Old Pinnacles is full, park near Peaks View and start on Bench Trail. The High Peaks begins with a steep climb that foreshadows a little of what the rest of the hike to the top will be. This leg of the hike leads through sweeping switchbacks as the Pinnacles start to become more abundant. You'll notice a variety of wildflowers along the trails as lizards dart around on the rocks. 

If you are headed to Bear Gulch or simply want an amazing view, head to Scout Peak. Reaching Scout Peak is the most challenging part of the Bench Trail. In one nearly vertical section the rock has been chiseled for footholds near an installed railing. As you continue on the loop toward Juniper Canyon and the Chaparral Picnic Area, the trail becomes steep and the switchbacks more numerous. The decent is quick, and the views are amazing on this side of the park. The grade of the trail becomes less intense before you arrive at the Chaparral Picnic Area, where you can re-fill your water and use the restroom. 

The Balconies Cave Trail starts at the Chaparral Picnic Area, and it is only a short hike to reach the entrance. The Balconies Cave entrance greets you with a steel gate and narrow walkways. You need a flashlight to go through the cave; the route is generally well indicated. 

The rest of the hike to Peaks View is relatively easy with very little elevation gain or loss. It is an easy stroll through the lower elevations of the park. Designated rock climbing areas are located on all of the various trails.  

Note that this area is usually very hot, so plan on hiking with plenty of water and sun protection. Also, poison oak is abundant.

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Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(13 within a 30 mile radius)

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