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Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
Loop
Distance
11.00 mi (17.70 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Pros

Low entrance fee. Fantastic views. A variety of wildflowers and wildlife.

Cons

Poison oak on hiking trails. Congested parking.

Trailhead Elevation

856.00 ft (260.91 m)

Features

Historically significant
Rock climbing
Bird watching
Wildlife
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Cave
Geologically significant

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Gabilan + Southern Diablo Mountains, California

Comments

03/15/2014
Great to go in the spring, around March, to see the wildflowers. Last visit I saw 7 California condors flying about. They are very graceful and glide very smoothly when viewed through binoculars.

On another trip, it was moonless, and the stars were plentiful. Apparently, this is the best stargazing south of the SF Bay Area, but still driving distance (about 1 hours south of San Jose). I saw many meteors and thoroughly enjoyed the winter-time view of the dark sky.
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