Skip to main content
Visit at June 06, 2021; Balconies Cave was close to visitors
What? : Pinnacles NP
is the best place to see the rare California Condor flying over the pinnacle’s.
on top of the rare Condors this newest member of the National Parks system offers
several exiting hiking options that includes small caves, water reservoir, mountain
ridge, viewing pinnacle towers and a wilderness area.
Where? : Located in
central California at the mountain ridge east of highway 101 and west of
California highway 25, south of Hollister. The main, west, park access is 32
miles south of Hollister on highway 25. The east park entrance is at the end of
highway 146 east of Soledad (small town on hwy 101).
When? : The park is
open year round but the best time to visit here is during the cooler months, it
is hot during the summer.
Due note 1: Compare to
other national parks the Pinnacles is a small National park that offer relatively
small number of hiking options.
Due note 2: There are 2
different entrance to the park (east and west) and they are not connected by inside
Due note 3: Look for cave
opening, they may be close for bat colony hibernating.
Due note 4: The only
campsite available in the park is at the east entrance at the visitor center near
the creek, no wilderness overnight camping.
My thoughts: I visit this
small National Park many times, always amazed by the Pinnacles ridge and the upper
trail and by the flying Condors from above. The best way to see the Condors is
from the ridge top where they fly closer.
Few words about
the California Condors:
world California Condor population was on the verge of extinction, in 1982 only
22 Condors were living in captivity. After a lot of breeding in captivity
efforts during the 80’s and 90’s few Condors were release to the nature in
1992. Today there are 100 free Condors living in the wild, mainly of them in
For more information:
Do not confuse
the Condor with the Turkey Vultures that can also be spotted in the park.
Both birds have
“similar” appearance, but Condors are much bigger, has large bold orang head (young
has black head) and their white wing coloring start near the wing front bone
while the Turkey Vultures (common bird) are smaller, their white coloring is at
the feathers edge and has much smaller red head.
condors have at least one tag along the leading edge of their wing, and many
understand that the Condors are free birds, and it is not guaranteed you will
spot them at your park visit. I think that is spotted Condors around 50% of my
park visits, some was far away but in some cases nearby flying above my head.
Best place to
see Condors is from the high pinnacle ridge trails, usually during the morning
There are east
and west park entrances and there is not any direct road that connect between
If you plan to
visit the parks small caves (one at the east and one at the west) bring
flashlights (cell phone light may be enough) and check in advance if the caves
are open to hikers, during mid-May to mid-July they may be closed for bat
The main park
entrance is from the East (out of hwy 25), you can find a small visitor center,
shop, and the only available park campsite.
and afternoon, you can see many Turkey Vultures on the treetops near the park
Not so much to
do at the small Visitor Center and there are few hiking options depending on
time you have and difficulty levels.
Bear Gulch Day Use Area:
This is a
popular trailhead; you can head from here into different hikes.
2.1-mile, hike (if you park at Bear
Gulch Day Use Area, Red color):
Trail --> Bear Gulch Caves (bring flashlights or use phone) --> Bear
Gulch Reservoir --> going up 0.6-mile on the Rim trail and then head back down
to Moses Spring Trail.
5.5 miles, hike with climbing to
the upper ridge section (Orange color):
From Bear Gulch
Reservoir --> Rim trail to High Peaks trail all the way up --> High Peaks
trail including the trail section between the pinnacles --> Condor Gulch
Trail all the way down, back to the parking lot.
7.4 miles, Hike to the North
Chalone Peak watch tower (Orange color, Map2):
Out and back on
the same trail, can be connected to the upper ridge section trail.
From Bear Gulch
Reservoir --> Chalone Peak trail all the way to the watchtower (climbing
8.3 miles hike, Hike option
starting from Chalone Creek (Light Blue color, Map2):
trail --> Juniper Canyon Trail --> Chaparral parking --> Balconies
Trail --> Balconies Caves Trail (need flashlight) --> Old Pinnacle Trail
Out of the 101
take the narrow hwy 146 up to West Pinnacles Visitor Contact Station; Continue
to Chaparral Trailhead Parking at the end of the road.
4 miles, Hiking High Peaks loop
Trail --> take the right turn to High Peaks Trail --> reaching the top of
the ridge --> turn left to High Peaks Trail edge trail between the pinnacles
--> left to Tunnel Trail going down --> turn right down to Juniper Canyon
1.7 miles, Visit Balconies Caves
option to hike from the east parking is to Balconies Caves. This is an easy
hike, total of 1.7 miles out and back.
Post a Comment