San Benito County, California

Explore Pinnacles National Park

Originally added by Pascual Dutton

An easy, really fun day trip for bay area residents.Explore two caves, a reservoir, and a myriad of wildlife.The scenery is epic and truly shines at dusk and dawn.A great winter hike, as the summer months can get hot.

It’s hard to believe how many people don’t know about this place, which was newly designated as a National Park in January 2013. Pinnacles National Park is hidden just south of San Jose in the Gabilan Mountains, and is a short drive for anyone living in the Bay Area.

With beautiful rock spires piercing the horizon, huge boulders, inviting caves, light crowds, and endangered California condors floating high above, Pinnacles National Park gives off a very spiritual vibe. There are thirteen well-maintained hiking trails that weave across the park’s 26,000 acres.

There are multiple hiking options, depending on the amount of time you have and the level of difficulty you’re looking for. My favorite 4-5 hour hike is the Bear Gulch to High Peaks trail, a 6.7-mile loop that allows you to hit a lot of the park’s highlights. This is easiest accessed via the park’s East Entrance. You’ll begin by exploring the Bear Gulch caves (you’ll need your headlamp/flashlight), then up to the reservoir, and finally to the Steep and Narrow route to the High Peaks. The Steep and Narrow route includes some steep and semi-challenging hiking, as well as a bit of scrambling, but the views from the top are simply amazing.

Parking is $5/vehicle for day use, paid at the visitor center. The west entrance is open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The east entrance is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 831-389-4486.

Be sure to dress in layers – it can be warm on the trail and cool in the caves. If you have hiking boots, I would recommend using them. Bring plenty of water.

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Tags

Photography
Hiking
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Great climbing here, too. Bring a helmet, though. It can be pretty chossy!

Make sure to leave before nightfall. We had a rough encounter with a local gang when heading out toward the 101.

Get there early

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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