Pinnacles National Monument

Pinnacles Travel Blog

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yes, there was a cliff on the other side of this rock

Pinnacles is the remains of an ancient volcano that once, millions and millions of years ago, stretched 8,000 feet into the sky. Tectonic forces pushed the volcano back into the earth, but erosion has now revealed its remains -- the odd, incongruent rock formations, jutting spires, red rock monoliths and dark, winding caves.

This was a really fun 6 mile hike that was full of variety (for the first 3/4 of the trip), took 3.5 hours to complete and took us from down in the dark Bear Gulch Cave (only fully open for a few weeks a year) to atop the mountain on the High Peaks Trail.

We parked at the Bear Gulch visitor's center around 3PM and winded our way to the Bear Gulch cave. The cave is home to the adorable Townsend Big-Eared Bat, which unfortunately, you don't get to see because they're protected from too much human contact -- The cave is partially closed for most of the year to ensure they're not bothered.

Bear Gulch Resevoir, with conveniently placed child

The cave is really fun -- the trail requires flashlights and ducking pretty low at times, but it's well marked and nothing that isn't suitable for kids. You emerge on the other side into the sunlight, climb out to a real treat -- the classic Pinnacles Monoliths atop the cave and a picturesque resevoir sparkling amidst the rocky landscape.

From there, you can loop back or choose several more difficult trails. From here, we started up the High Peaks trail, which is moderately gradual up to just below Scout Peak. A series of switchbacks takes you to a gorgeous viewpoint overlooking the West side of the park.

From here, the trail enters the "steep and narrows" -- they aren't kidding about this part.

The monoliths
The trail goes up steep rock faces with steps carved out to the stone, and narrow sections of the trail that would be impossible without railings. But it's also the funnest (is too a word) part of the hike.

The end of the Steep and Narrows takes you to Hawkins Peak, and a seriously pretty overlook onto the Balconies across the canyon. You can also spot California Condors here. There were a whole bunch just chillin' on a mountainside when we were there.

The last part of the trail is a bit boring, a series of switchbacks down the Condor Gulch Trail that takes you back to the Bear Gulch Visitor Center and Parking Lot.

There's one campsite just outside of Pinnacles -- there's no camping inside the park. It's privately run currently, but is soon to be part of the park.

overlooking Balconies
The price was $37 total for 3 people, including the $5 entrance fee into the park for 1 vehicle. At night, you can see the stars all around in the night sky. Supposedly, you can even hike by moonlight, or so the ranger said. But we seriously doubted his words when we were going over thoses steep and narrows. Crazy ranger man, trying to kill us.

Be warned that the desert climate gets very cold at night despite being pretty warm in the daytime even in October. My new mummy sleeping bag is supposed to keep me warm down to 15 degrees, but I think my mummy lies.

gentry591 says:
looks like a good hike--liked your pictures
Posted on: Oct 22, 2007
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yes, there was a cliff on the othe…
yes, there was a cliff on the oth…
Bear Gulch Resevoir, with convenie…
Bear Gulch Resevoir, with conveni…
The monoliths
The monoliths
overlooking Balconies
overlooking Balconies
sarah and me, bear gulch resevoir
sarah and me, bear gulch resevoir
this was a bit scary
this was a bit scary
The monoliths
The monoliths
bear gulch cave
bear gulch cave
phallic rock
phallic rock
classic pinnacles rock formations
classic pinnacles rock formations
west side
west side
steep and narrows!
steep and narrows!
east side
east side
cave ceiling
cave ceiling
bear gulch cave trail
bear gulch cave trail
east side
east side
steep and narrows
steep and narrows
steep and narrows
steep and narrows
west side
west side
weird twisted rock
weird twisted rock
Pinnacles
photo by: thenewextrememimi