Best Hikes in Pinnacles National Park: 10 Thrilling Hiking Trails 

Wondering what are the best hikes in Pinnacles National Park? This guide will highlight all the top trails, points of interest, and more. 

Pinnacles National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. It boasts an extensive network of thrilling hiking trails traversing the park’s diverse landscapes and offering a myriad of challenges.

Before facing these, you’ll need to overcome an obstacle that many first-time visitors face — how to navigate and find the best hiking trails in Pinnacles National Park. Fortunately, you’ll find all the answers below. From easy to strenuous hikes, here is a round-up of the most memorable hikes, as well as information on when to visit, where to stay, and other tips. 

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Best Time To Go Pinnacles National Park Hiking

The best time to go hiking in Pinnacles National Park is between October and May. The weather is cooler during these months, allowing for a more comfortable hiking experience. If you’re visiting from March onward, you’ll be treated to the sound of flowing waterfalls and breathtaking views of the park’s wildflowers in bloom. 

You may also see an abundance of wildlife, including black-tailed deer, bobcats, the California condor, and many more. Additionally, most of the park’s facilities are open during this time, including the park shuttle. 

How To Get to Pinnacles National Park, California

To get to Pinnacles National Park, you can drive or take public transport. How you get there will depend on the entrance you wish to visit. To access the east entrance, follow California SR 25 to SR 146. For the west entrance, take California SR 146 east from the city of Soledad and follow US-101 into the park. 

Note that you cannot simply search for “Pinnacles National Park” in your GPS, as this may take you to either entrance. To access a specific entrance, use the following coordinates:

  • Pinnacles National Park East Entrance: 36.493545, -121.146646
  • Pinnacles National Park West Entrance: 36.477700, -121.226136

Regardless of which side you enter from, you’ll be greeted by towering rock formations, breathtaking scenery, and a wealth of hiking trails to explore.

Pinnacles National Park is around 2 1/2 to 3 hours and 140 miles away from San Fransico Airport.

>>>Rent A Car Here<<<

How Much Time Is Needed For Pinnacles National Park’s Best Hikes

To fully experience Pinnacle National Park and its scenic trails, plan to spend at least one to two days in the park. With more than 30 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy strolls to strenuous ascents, there’s plenty to explore. 

Spend your first day tackling the popular yet challenging High Peaks Trail and enjoy a picnic at one of the park’s many scenic spots. On your second day, hit up some of the more remote trails, such as the Bear Gulch Cave Trail, which explores some of the park’s cave systems. 

Map Of Pinnacles National Park Hikes

Where To Stay In Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles Campground Tent Cabin

If you’re planning a visit to Pinnacles National Park and wondering where to stay, you have several options available to you. From campsites to hotels, here are some popular picks.

Pinnacles Campground

If you’re looking to stay in Pinnacles National Park, your best option is camping. Located on the east side of the park is Pinnacles Campground. This is the park’s only camping facility, making it popular among visitors. 

The campground hosts 134 campsites and a wide range of amenities to ensure a comfortable stay. This includes fire rings, picnic tables, flushable toilets, hot showers, WiFi, a pool, and a camp store. 

Pinnacles Campground offers several camping options, all of which allow you to immerse yourself in the park’s breathtaking scenery. There are tent campsites, RV sites, and group camping sites that are perfect for groups of friends, scout troops, or students. 

If you’re looking for a hassle-free option, try one of the cozy tent cabins available for rent. I stayed here during my visit, and it did not disappoint. These rustic yet charming accommodations offered a touch of comfort without compromising the immersive outdoor experience. Bring a sleeping bag, though. >>>Check Availability

Bar SZ Ranch

Just a short drive from Pinnacles National Park, Bar SZ Ranch is an ideal place to stay during your visit. With its beautifully appointed ranch stays and range of modern amenities, this accommodation offers the perfect blend of convenience and tranquility. 

For larger groups, consider the Ranch House. This is a 4,500-square-foot living space set on a private hilltop with views of the ranch and surrounding scenery. It features six bedrooms, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, a pool house, and plenty more. 

For smaller groups, the Log Cabin is a good pick. It offers a cozy space featuring three bedrooms, a fireplace, barbecuing facilities, and lovely views of the mountainous surroundings. 

Additionally, the ranch offers a range of activities, including horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, archery, and animal feeding. >>>Check Availability 

Inn at the Pinnacles 

For those seeking a more luxurious stay when visiting Pinnacles National Park, visit the Inn at the Pinnacles. This accommodation sits nestled in the countryside and is the epitome of comfort and charm. Here you’ll be treated to warm hospitality and breathtaking views of the guest house’s picturesque surroundings. 

Choose from a selection of elegantly appointed rooms, each thoughtfully designed to ensure a pleasant stay. With luxury bedding, modern amenities, soaking tubs, and a hearty continental breakfast each morning, the Inn at the Pinnacles is the perfect base for outdoor adventures. >>>Check Availability

What To Pack For Hiking Pinnacles National Park

  • Bug Spray: Bring some good bug spray, just in case. >Buy Some Here
  • Sunscreen: One of the ten essentials! I always bring this with me. >Buy Sunscreen
  • Hiking Boots/Shoes: If you use tennis shoes, you can easily hurt your toes by hitting a rock by accident (Trust me I have done it so many times).  >Check Out My Hiking Shoes
  • Hiking socks: Having the correct socks helps prevent blisters while hiking. Smart Wool is probably my favorite brand out there. >Buy Hiking Socks
  • Refillable water bottle: I always bring a Hydroflask on all my adventures. They are on the heavier side, but I know for a fact they will not break. I have had a few cheap water bottles break on me before. >Check Prices Now
  • Water Reservoir: You might need more water than a water bottles worth. The great thing about this reservoir is that it doesn’t have the plastic taste. >Here Is My Water Reservoir
  • Water: Stay nice and hydrated.
  • Sunglasses: It can get sunny, so make sure to pack some sunglasses. >Check Out These Sunglasses
  • Snacks: The best snacks are jerky, nuts, energy bars, and extra food. >>>Check Out These Snacks!
  • Camera: The camera I have linked was one of the first cameras I started using on my travels. The Sony A6000 is an excellent camera for people that want to start improving at travel photography.  >Buy Sony Camera Here
  • First Aid Kit: This is one of the first things I bought when I first started going on adventures. It is super portable. >Buy This Awesome First Aid Kit Here
  • Day Pack to carry all your things: The REI bag I have linked, we have had for seven years now, and it is still going strong! >Buy This Great Quality Backpack
  • Leggings or Hiking Pants: I love wearing leggings while hiking because I love how comfy they are. Here are my leggings.  >Click For My Leggings
  • Breathable sweat-wicking shirts: Try not to wear cotton because it soaks up your sweat and can cause hypothermia in the mountains. >Buy Shirt Here
  • Sports Bra: For women >>>Click Here
  • Jacket: If you go in the winter a jacket!  >Buy My Favorite Jacket
  • Tripod: This is an optional item, but it is excellent for getting the ideal sunset pictures. >Check out this tripod
  • Fire Starter and Matches: This is just in case of an emergency. >Buy These Stormproof Matches Just In Case
  • Compass: I always carry this with me, just in case. >Click Here To Buy
  • Knife: You never know if you will need it. >Buy My Knife Here
  • Headlamp: A headlamp is an absolute must in case you get lost or you take longer than you thought you would to complete a hike. Trust me, it happens even to me. >Buy A Headlamp Now
  • Trekking Poles: I recommend these for people with bad knees like me. >Buy My Poles
  • National Park Book: >>>Check it out Here
  • National Park Pass: If you are an avid hiker like me, it’s worth getting the year-long America The Beautiful Pass. >Get It HERE

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10 Best Pinnacles National Park Trails

Here are ten of the best hiking trails in Pinnacles National Park.

High Peaks Trail 

  • Elevation Gain: 1,841 feet
  • Mileage: 6.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trail Guide: Link

First up is one of the most popular trails in Pinnacles National Park – the High Peaks Trail. This breathtaking adventure features a strenuous yet exhilarating ascend, taking you past awe-inspiring rock formations and even greater vistas. 

The trail features narrow passageways, challenging switchbacks, and dramatic cliff edges that are sure to have your adrenaline pumping. Contrasting this is the park’s majestic flora and fauna. Visit during peak season, and you’ll see wildflowers in bloom and an abundance of animals. 

Once you’ve reached the summit, you’ll be left speechless by the incredible views. Gaze upon the park’s unique rock spires and take in sweeping views of the surrounding valleys and distant mountain ranges. 

For this strenuous hike, staying hydrated is essential. It also helps to rest at the overlooks and take things slow. You’ll also want to bring along a camera, as there’ll be some stunning photo opportunities at nearly every twist and turn. 

So what are you waiting for? If you’re seeking a challenge, hit up the High Peaks Trail. This hike is sure to test your resilience and fuel your sense of adventure. 

Condor Gulch Trail to Overlook

  • Elevation Gain: 535 feet
  • Mileage: 2 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

One of Pinnacle National Park’s most exhilarating trails is undoubtedly Condor Gulch Trail to Overlook. It offers a moderately challenging adventure that is sure to leave you breathless, both literally and figuratively. 

The out-and-back trail traverses the park’s diverse and enchanting landscapes, with something new to see at nearly every twist and turn. As you journey toward Condor Gulch Overlook, marvel at the rugged mountains, vibrant flora, and various geological wonders. 

Upon reaching the overlook, you’ll be graced by sweeping views of the park’s sprawling valleys and distant peaks. Take time here to appreciate the raw beauty of this national park. You may even spot a variety of birds. 

Condor Gulch Overlook in the Spring

Given the low elevation, Condor Gulch Overlook is a popular pick for both hiking and trail running. It’s also accessible year-round, with each season showcasing its own charm. 

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Bear Gulch Trail 

  • Elevation Gain: 315 feet
  • Mileage: 2.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the captivating Bear Gulch Trail of Pinnacles National Park. This easy 2.6-mile hike offers a psychological refuge, allowing you to reconnect with nature’s wonders and find inner peace.

Journey through a serene landscape of oak trees and meandering streams, and take in the tranquil atmosphere. Traverse the narrow passages and discover the inner beauty of the iconic Bear Gulch Cave.

Hidden gems you’ll find include intricate rock formations formed by years of geological events, including volcanic eruptions, erosions, and floods. You’ll also stumble across cool, shaded caverns that are sure to leave you in awe. 

The trail treats you to stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges and valleys, as well as wildlife spotting opportunities. You can also find solace in the park’s peaceful resting spots. Enjoy a snack or water while indulging in views of wildflowers and the sound of flowing creeks. 

The Bear Gulch Trail offers a unique adventure allowing you to explore both the natural wonders of Pinnacles National Park and the hidden depths of the Bear Gulch Cave.

Moses Spring Trail to Bear Gulch Reservoir

  • Elevation Gain: 312 feet
  • Mileage: 1.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

Combining both the natural beauty and historical significance of Pinnacles National Park is the popular Moses Spring Trail to Bear Gulch Reservoir. This is a moderate hike that takes visitors through the park’s serene landscapes, uncovering intriguing remnants of its past.  

The trail begins near the Pinnacles Nature Center amidst enchanting oak woodlands. This portion of the trail is shaded, offering a peaceful atmosphere. As you continue your hike, you’ll come across fascinating rock formations and stunning views, so be sure to bring your hiking camera gear.

You’ll move through narrow passages along the way, offering moments of excitement and challenge. You’ll also weave between rock formations and ascend gentle slopes, which adds to the thrilling adventure. Throughout the journey, you’ll see a variety of landscapes, from sheltered spaces to open vistas.

The vibrant display of flora is a treat to the eyes, as the wildflowers dotting the trailside adds splashes of color to the natural caves. With the calming melodies of birdsong and the occasional rustling of leaves, you’re sure to have a wonderful experience along this scenic trail.

I tackled the Moses Spring Trail to Bear Gulch Reservoir with the caves, and I must say that the caves were very cool! While I explored the lower cave, the upper cave had water up to your waist, which I did not want to do. However, it was still a wonderful experience.

Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies

  • Elevation Gain: 495 feet
  • Mileage: 5.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

Offering a memorable experience in the outdoors is the intermediate Old Pinnacles Trail. Like several other trails in Pinnacles National Park, this hike takes you on a journey back in time. As you follow the footsteps of early explorers, marvel at the park’s natural beauty and various ancient rock formations. 

The Old Pinnacles Trail begins relatively flat and takes you through oak woodlands and chaparral-covered slopes. Along this portion of the hike, immerse yourself in the sights, scents, and beauty of the native vegetation. 

Further on, the terrain becomes more rugged, introducing rocky outcrops and a gradually steeper incline. You’ll also discover narrow passageways traversing the park’s towering rocks, as well as shaded canyons offering respite from the sometimes-harsh California sun. 

The pinnacle of the journey awaits as you approach the Balconies. Within this natural wonder, discover large, awe-inspiring rock formations that date back millennia. Boasting unique shapes and textures, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to another world. 

Condor Gulch Trail to High Peaks 

  • Elevation Gain: 1,634 feet
  • Mileage: 5.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trail Guide: Link

Submerge your senses in the grandeur of Pinnacles National Park on this enduring trail. On this expedition, you’ll witness everything from enigmatic rock formations to breathtaking vistas. You may even spot California condors. These majestic birds do not migrate and grace the park’s skies year-round. 

Start at the trailhead, which is located from the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. Begin the challenging ascent through the park’s rugged terrain and towering peaks. You’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the serenity of Condor Gulch. 

This natural wonder houses a diverse array of plant life and a number of hidden gems. As you traverse the labyrinthine passages, narrow gorges, and arduous switchbacks, you’ll also discover intriguing rock formations. 

There‘s also the chance to visit one of the park’s most iconic overlooks — the dramatic High Peaks. Here, sweeping panoramas of the park’s valleys and many natural wonders bestow their grandeur upon you. 

The Condor Gulch to High Peaks Trail has it all — challenging, adrenaline-pumping climbs, a vibrant tapestry of indigenous flora and fauna. There’s also plenty of rest stops where you can take in the park’s pristine beauty and snap some shots.

Tip: If you want to brush up on your skills, check out these hiking photography tips. 

Juniper Canyon Trail to High Peaks

  • Elevation Gain: 1,260 feet
  • Mileage: 4.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trail Guide: Link

For those looking for a challenge, the Juniper Canyon Trail to High Peaks awaits. This trail offers a thrilling and scenic adventure unfolding the beauty of Pinnacles National Park. 

Begin your journey at the Chaparral Trailhead, where you’ll be greeted by a diverse landscape of chaparral, oak woodlands, and peculiar rock formations. As you ascend further up the trail, admire the park’s unique flora and fauna, including vibrant wildflowers and the California Condor.

As you make your way through Juniper Canyon, you’ll discover narrow passages and switchbacks, offering plenty of exciting challenges and breathtaking vistas. Feel the exhilaration as you overcome the rugged terrain, and be sure to take time to immerse yourself in the park’s beauty.

As you approach the High Peaks, you’ll be met with awe-inspiring views of the surrounding valleys and towering rock formations. Take your time capturing photos and soaking in the grandeur of this beautiful U.S. national park. For those looking to extend the journey, the trail can be performed as a 9-mile loop. 

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Balconies Cave Trail

  • Elevation Gain: 384 feet
  • Mileage: 2.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

For an easier hike, try the 2.6-mile out-and-back Balconies Cave Trail to High Peaks near Soledad, California. Because of its accessibility, this is one of the most popular trails in Pinnacles National Park. It is also open year-round. 

The journey begins at Chaparral Trailhead, taking you on an immersive trip surrounded by nature. As you hike, admire the ancient rock formations and diverse flora that line the path.

The trail’s highlight is undoubtedly the iconic Balconies Cave. Here you’ll discover a fascinating underground world of natural wonders. Encounter more fascinating rock sculptures, including stalactites and stalagmites, and various other geological features. 

The route continues to the popular High Peaks, where you can enjoy endless panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder this trail is a favorite among hikers.

Tip: For an alternative experience, try the Balconies Cliff Trail. 

Moses Spring and Rim Trail Loop

  • Elevation Gain: 440 feet
  • Mileage: 2 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

For a short but captivating hiking adventure, Moses Spring and Rim Trail Loop is a great pick. The trail begins near the Pinnacles Nature Center and guides you along a moderately challenging journey through the park’s picturesque landscape. 

This trail is popular among bird enthusiasts as you’re likely to spot a diverse range of bird species gracing the skies as you traverse the unique terrain. Additionally, the surroundings offer plenty of opportunities to soak in the serenity of the national park, particularly during the quieter times of the day. 

Like most trails in Pinnacles National Park, you’ll discover the rugged beauty of the park’s ancient rock formations. After an hour, you’ll find yourself near the end of the loop. While this is a shorter trail, be sure to take time to appreciate the natural serenity surrounding the spring. 

Balconies Trail to Machete Ridge

  • Elevation Gain: 121 feet
  • Mileage: 1.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

Get ready for a thrilling expedition along the Balconies Trail to Machete Ridge. This is an exhilarating 1.5-mile-hiking route that will leave you in awe. 

Lace up your hiking boots and begin your adventure at the Balconies trailhead. As you progress along the trail, take in the beauty of Pinnacles National Park and its diverse landscapes. Wander through lush groves of deciduous trees and marvel at the craggy rock formations ahead. 

In addition to the magnificent rock outcrops that punctuate the terrain, be sure to keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife. Pinnacles National Park is a sanctuary for a variety of bird species and small mammals.

Lastly, as you ascend Machete Ridge, brace yourself for the incredible views that this prominent ridge has to offer. Take in sweeping views of the valley and rugged terrain while relishing in the sense of achievement as you conquer its heights. 

FAQs About Pinnacles National Park Hikes 

While you know all the top trails that Pinnacles National Park has to offer, you may still have some burning questions. To ensure you’re fully prepared, here is everything you need to know. 

Are Dogs Allowed On Hiking Trails In Pinnacles National Park?

While we all love our furry companions, unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the hiking trails in Pinnacles National Park. This is to ensure the safety of the wildlife found in the park and preserve the natural environment for everyone to enjoy. Dogs and other pets are allowed in some of the paved areas of the park, including picnic areas, parking lots, and campgrounds. 

Are There Guided Hikes in Pinnacles National Park?

Yes, Pinnacles National Park offers ranger-led hikes and programs throughout the year. These provide wonderful opportunities to learn more about the park’s geology, wildlife, and history while exploring its breathtaking trails. Find more information on the park’s ranger programs here. 

Can I Camp Overnight When Hiking in Pinnacles National Park?

Yes, there are designated campgrounds within Pinnacles National Park. Here you can set up your tent, park your RV, or rent a glamorous tent cabin and enjoy all that this natural wonderland has to offer. Note that ​camping in areas of the park, namely along the hiking trails, is not permitted. 

Are There Entrance Fees For Hiking in Pinnacles National Park?

Yes, there is an entrance fee to access Pinnacles National Park and its abundant hiking trails. Entry fees are around $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, and $15 for bicycles and walk-ins. All prices are per person, and passes are valid for seven days from the date of purchase. For updates on these prices, it’s best to refer to the national park website. You can also get America The Beautiful Pass to access all national parks for up to a year.

What Are the Best Pinnacles Hiking Trails For Beginners?

Bear Gulch Cave Trail

For beginners, the best hiking trails are Bear Gulch Cave and Balconies Cave Trail. Both of these are easier and offer endless opportunities to marvel at the park’s scenic landscapes. 

Discover the Best Hikes Pinnacles National Park Has To Offer

All in all, Pinnacles National Park offers a thrilling array of hiking trails that showcase the park’s otherworldly beauty and provide an unforgettable outdoor experience. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned hiker, there’s a trail for everyone to enjoy. With everything from scenic strolls near Moses Spring to strenuous climbs toward the summit of High Peaks, you’re truly spoiled for choice. 

With the guide above, you can choose the trail that appeals most to you. You’ll also have all the information needed to ensure a seamless trip. So what are you waiting for? Lace-up your boots, pack in your water bottle, and embark on the adventure of a lifetime. 

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