Pinnacles National Monument: High Peaks Trail

Explore a once-active seismic hotbed of sheer canyons and towering spires on this 4.5-mile loop. Bird bonus: See California condors up close.
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Explore a once-active seismic hotbed of sheer canyons and towering spires on this 4.5-mile loop. Bird bonus: See California condors up close.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 7.2

Waypoints

CHL001

Location: 36.4812660217285, -121.181480407715

From Bear Gulch trailhead, head NW on Condor Gulch Trail up switchbacks with chaparral, wild sage, and rosemary

CHL002

Location: 36.4852485656738, -121.192367553711

Condor Gulch Overlook (2,545 ft.): From ledge, peer S over eroded curves of the Little Pinnacles and N to Hawkins Peak. To continue, head E then N along ridge

CHL003

Location: 36.4898338317871, -121.191215515137

L @ T onto High Peaks Trail; views open N over the Balconies, an 800-ft. dome of cracked pink cliffs

CHL004

Location: 36.4885330200195, -121.198486328125

L @ Y; begin traverse over the jumbled formations of Pinnacle Rocks-look for California condors coasting on updrafts

CHL005

Location: 36.4863510131836, -121.198181152344

Not for acrophobes: Cut across knife-edge of the High Peaks on a dizzying section chiseled out of breccia layers formed by lava and ash from the Pinnacles Volcano

CHL006

Location: 36.481616973877, -121.199264526367

L @ T to start steep descent of narrow gorge; bench offers views W over Salinas Valley and rugged Coast Range

CHL007

Location: 36.4772148132324, -121.18726348877

R @ Y onto Rim Trail; in spring, CA poppies and lupine streak the hillsides

CHL008

Location: 36.472900390625, -121.187469482422

Bear Gulch Reservoir, cradled in auburn rocks. Go L below dam into dark tunnel created by toppled boulders, now home to Townsend's big-eared bats. (Headlamp required)

CHL009

Location: 36.4757347106934, -121.186218261719

R @ T onto Moses Spring Trail

CHL010

Location: 36.4776153564453, -121.185401916504

R @ Y, still on Moses Spring Trail; continue .4 mi. through sycamores to car

Sandstone spires

Location: 36.4725456237793, -121.188163757324

©Jack Haskel

Sandstone trails

Location: 36.4851036071777, -121.191795349121

©Jack Haskel

Misty Rock Wall

Location: 36.4853477478027, -121.192092895508

Headwall of Hawkins Peak pokes through the fog. ©Jack Haskel

Climbing the rail

Location: 36.4863052368164, -121.198051452637

Chiseled steps and a metal rail help aid the traverse across the vertigo-inducing High Peaks section. ©Jack Haskel

Pinnacles in the sky

Location: 36.4726448059082, -121.187156677246

©Jack Haskel

Reservoir

Location: 36.475757598877, -121.188629150391

©Jack Haskel

Reflection

Location: 36.4726448059082, -121.187553405762

©Jack Haskel