Pinnacles National Park: Balconies Cliffs and Cave Loop
Photo courtesy of Oshie!
When my #hikerchat friend and fellow purple fiend, Oshie, invited me on a camping trip at Pinnacles National Park for a weekend, I couldn’t say no! My friendships with internet people have spawned some of the most fun and awesome memories.
I packed my Teton Sports Hiker 3700, grabbed the keys and started the two hour drive to Pinnacles. And then I realized that I had both sets of keys to our building and apartment. I’d managed to absentmindedly grab all the existing keys within a 50 mile radius to my home. Whoops.
So I kind of screwed up the camping part of the trip, but we still managed to get a short hike in before I had to head back to San Francisco and prevent all hell from breaking loose. We were with a mixed group of people with different abilities so we chose something not too long and not too difficult, with some cave action and some elevation gain.
The Balconies Cliffs and Cave Loop is one of the most popular trails in Pinnacles National Park. The Cliffs portion of the trail takes you to views of some really neat rock formations and access to climbing areas. The Cave part is a cave! I mean, how much better can that be?
We came in from the East Entrance of the park and started at the Old Pinnacles Trailhead. You can reach this trail from the West Entrance but you cut off a significant portion of mileage. Check the full Pinnacles map here.
I like to get the climbing portion out of the way first before descending into the cave, but you can do this trail either way. It gets pretty dark in the cave, so make sure you have a headlamp! It can also be pretty damp inside the cave; prepare to get a little dirty. And it gets really hot in the park, especially on the Cliffs section, or if you choose to go beyond, so bring lots of water!
There is absolutely no cell service here, so you’re on your own if you get in trouble. The amount of unprepared people I saw on the trail was astonishing; one dude was so thirsty he was drinking out of the waterfall inside of the cave! This is a fairly busy park, so get there early to beat the crowds! The trailhead parking lot fills up quickly.
The Last Adventurer has also hiked this route and has a great trip report on it as well.