Hike: Balconies Cave and High Peaks Loop
Where: Pinnacles National Park
Trailhead: Old Pinnacles Trailhead
Duration: 5 hours
Length: 10.5 mile loop
Fitbit Steps: Approximately 33,000
Gear: CamelBak Aventura pack, Outdoor Research Contour Shorts, NW Alpine Black Spider Hoodie,
Ahnu Women’s Montara Waterproof Boot, Icebreaker Women’s Tech T Lite
Cost of Parking: $5 with admission to park for 7 consecutive days after
Notorious for crazy volcanic rock formations jutting hundreds of feet in the air, Pinnacles National Park is a destination for hikers and climbers. This past weekend was my first jaunt to the breathtakingly gorgeous national park. I cannot believe I have never been, both as a hiker and a climber.
The “pinnacles” that you see at the park are eroded formations from a long extinct volcano. These formations are home to the endangered California condors that can often be seen soaring high above. Rocky talus also forms caves in the park that house at least thirteen species of bats.
Weather was in the high 70s with wisps of clouds from previous storms in the air. Streams were flowing with water from the last two weeks of rain. The trails were dry, but not unbearably so. Balconies Cave was also open for passing.
We attempted to follow this hike via EveryTrail, but went in through the wrong entrance, and chose to approach from a separate trailhead on the east side of the park. From there, we made our way up to the Balconies trail, decided that we wanted to go through the cave, went through the cave, and then back up the Balconies trail again, effectively adding some extra mileage. The Balconies trail does go up in elevation so if you are looking for something a little more mellow, head through the cave. Depending on the time of year, the bottom of the cave may be wet. This past weekend was not too bad with small trickles and wet rocks. Went from Balconies to the Chaparral area, and then up to High Peaks through the tunnel, and back down around to the trailhead.
I expected the park to be more crowded with all the forever summer weather that California has been receiving, but it was fairly empty on the loop I was on.
If you’re looking to visit this park, spring and fall are the best time to avoid sweltering heat and melt-your-face temperatures. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend. The pinnacles alone are Instagram-worthy. So gorgeous!
Last updated on February 23, 2016.
Pretty view. As a geologist, I like seeing “naked rocks” like that :)