High Peaks (dayhike)

Trip Date: 12/6/2015

Location: Pinnacles National Park

Permit/Pass: Private, Non-Commercial Vehicles (including motorcycles): $15.00 / vehicle - Valid for 7 days

Individual, Hike / Bicycle: $10.00 / person - Valid for 7 days

Trail maps: NPS mapOld map

Directions: West entrance: Take Hwy 101 to the town of Soledad. In Soledad take Front St. to East St. and turn northeast to follow Hwy 146 East which turns east on Metz Rd. in a few blocks. Keep an eye out for Hwy. 146 veering off to the left in a couple of miles. Be aware that the highway turns into a one lane road, drive with caution. Follow Hwy 146 for 14 miles into Pinnacles National Park.

East entrance: From the south - take Interstate 5 to Hwy 198 west to Hwy 25 north to a left turn onto Hwy 146 - essentially the east entrance to the park. Turn left into the Pinnacles Campground to check in at the Pinnacles Visitor Center. From the campground, the Bear Gulch Area is 3.5 miles further into the park along Hwy 146.

From the north - take Hwy 101 to the city of Gilroy to Hwy 25 south. Follow 25 to the city of Hollister. Go through the town of Hollister and continue about 30 miles to Hwy 146. Turn right on Hwy 146. Turn left into the Pinnacles Campground to check in at the Pinnacles Visitor Center. From the campground, the Bear Gulch Area is 3.5 miles further into the park along Hwy 146.

Synopsis: One of the best four-mile hikes anywhere outside of the Sierra. There is a sturdy climb to begin the hike, but the views and scenery are spectacular. And the trail design (thanks mostly to the CCC, who built these trails in the mid 1900s), including hand-cut steps, boulder-side railings, and a tunnel, intrigue and delight the hiker all along the high peaks area.

Trail sequence: Juniper Canyon Trail / High Peaks Trail / Tunnel Trail / Juniper Canyon

Type: Balloon loop

Distance: 4.1 miles

Elevation: Min. - 1312', Max. - 2585'

Rating: Moderate (factors: ascending, some scrambling, steep rock stairs)

Notes: This is not a difficult hike, but there are sections where balance is important. Some of the rock steps are quite steep, and there are sections where someone with a fear of heights might not feel comfortable.

Track: Juniper Canyon / High Peaks - Pinnacles NP

Turn by Turn:

  -- Find the trailhead on the east side of the parking lot. After walking a few steps, turn right to take the Juniper Canyon trail.

  -- The trail trends southeast, then south for a while before turning to the east and climbing out of the shady canyon area.

  -- There are quite a few switchbacks along this next section of the trail, and you climb steadily to a junction with the Tunnel Trail on the left after a little over a mile.

  -- Turn right (south) to continue on Juniper Canyon as you climb another half-mile or so, at which point you top out at the junction on the ridge north of Scout Pk. There are restrooms and a bench here, so it's a good spot for a break and pictures.

  -- Take the left (north) turn to follow the High Peaks trail. This section of the hike, which offers spectacular views to the east, continues for a little over a half-mile, and travels through some steep and potentially precarious areas, so although it shouldn't be dangerous balance and footing are important.

  -- Eventually you junction with the Tunnel Trail veering off to the left. Take this fork as it descends to the north for a short distance before circling to the west and then switchbacking its way south. Shortly after crossing a bridge and traversing the tunnel you rise to meet the Juniper Canyon trail once more. Turn right (west) to follow the trail down into the canyon and then north back to your car.

Photos: Flickr

Video: Youtube