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Camping at Pinnacles National Park

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Camping at Pinnacles National Park

Write up with a few changes from the same prior VHC event:

PAYPAL PAYMENT SECURES YOUR SPOT. $27 per person for 2 nights. NO REFUNDS after March 31, 2021 to compel commitment. Forfeited fees will be be donated to the Yosemite Conservancy under VHC’s name. MAX ~10 people.


One group site (Good for 20 people, but we are limiting the attendance to 10 due to the pandemic). Parking will be limited to 5 vehicles. Please, carpool if possible.

Check in time is at 1:00 pm on Friday.


Make sure you have adequate amount of gas when you enter the park. You may run out of gas if you exit the park and head home using the I-5.

Last time, I had cellular service in the park using Google Fi. But it was spotty.

Showers: There is one men’s and one women’s shower stall located by the park pool. Cost is 50 cents for 3 minutes. There is also a pool available during certain times of the year.

Food: Due to the pandemic situation, everyone will be responsible for their own food. Please bring whatever you will need for your cooking and camping needs. And don’t forget your chairs.

There are fire pits but fires are NOT allowed at this time.


There is a fee to enter the park of $ 30.00 per vehicle payable at the East Entrance Station when arriving at the park (Driving directions below).

It also helps to support our national parks by buying the America the Beautiful annual pass. You hit 2 birds with one stone. I encourage you to get it from your local REI store or other sales outlet. The parks need our help. In return, we get a year of exemption paying national park entrance fees.


Please arrange carpools. We are allowed limited parking. The remainder of the cars will have to be parked in overflow parking, which is located behind the Visitors Center. There is no additional fee to park in overflow.

A Couple of Hikes Options:

***High Peaks- Balconies Cave Loop

Stats: Distance- Approximately 9.5 Miles

Elevation Gain- Approximately 1,800’

Rating- 5/10

Trail Type- Maintained trail with some steep rocky sections. Balconies Cave will require scrambling down and through some large boulders to reach the cave.

***Bear Gulch/Condor Gulch Loop

Stats: Distance-Approximately 6.0 Miles

Elevation Gain- Approximately 1,325’

Rating- 4/10

Trail Type- Maintained trail with some steep rocky sections.

***There are also some coastal hikes and sightseeing in Monterey. The temps will be cooler along the coast so pack accordingly.

More Information Regarding the Hikes and Pinnacles National Park:

Pinnacles National Park, located near the San Andreas Fault along the boundary of the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate, is an excellent example of tectonic plate movement. The Pinnacles Rocks are believed to be part of the Neenach Volcano that occurred 23 million years ago near present-day Lancaster, California, some 195 miles (314 km) southeast. The giant San Andreas Fault split the volcano and the Pacific Plate crept north, carrying the Pinnacles. The work of water and wind on these erodible volcanic rocks has formed the unusual rock structures seen today.

Established in 1908 to preserve the incongruent and beautiful rock formations for which Pinnacles is named, the Park originally protected only 2,060 acres. It now encompasses about 26,000 acres in the southern portion of the Gabilan Mountains, one of a series of parallel northwest-trending ridges and valleys that make up the Central Coast Range.

Fault action and earthquakes also account for the talus caves that are another Pinnacles attraction. Deep, narrow gorges or shear fractures were transformed into caves when huge boulders toppled from above, and wedged in the fractures before reaching the ground. These boulders became the ceilings of the talus caves that now entice not only people, but also several kinds of bats.

The Pinnacles Talus Caves provide a nesting ground for 14 out of the 23 species of bats in California. There is currently a colony of Townsend’s Big-eared Bats in the Bear Gulch Cave and a colony of the Western Mastiff bat in the Balconies Cave area. Townsend’s big-eared bats are listed as a “sensitive species” by the state of California, and Pinnacles National Park is required to protect them. The colony in the Bear Gulch Cave is the largest maternity colony between San Francisco and Mexico. The National Park has constructed gates that allow areas of the cave to be open at certain times of the year, providing the colonies of bats show no signs of disturbance. We will visit the Balconies Cave on our loop hike on Saturday, and the Bear Gulch Cave on our loop hike on Sunday. Rain preceding our trip could cause closure of the caves due to flooding, but this would not effect our hike otherwise as there are trails routed around the caves for this reason.

Bear Gulch Trail/Cave

Pinnacles National Park has also joined the California Condor Recovery Program as a release and management site in 2003. The park currently manages 32 free-flying condors. Maybe we will be lucky enough to see some.

Spring is the most popular time to visit Pinnacles National Park. Temperatures are mild, the wildflowers are abundant and both Talus caves are usually open to the public.

High Peaks-Balconies Cave Loop

After Breakfast, we will consolidate cars and head over to the Old Pinnacles trailhead where we will start our hike on the High Peaks Balconies Cave Loop. Heading south on the Bench Trail, we will pick up the High Peaks trail on the right. Just past the junction with the Tunnel trail, the High Peaks Trail gets narrow and steep, crossing through a rocky area where steps have been cut into the rock to form steep staircases to get you across the crown of the pinnacles. Once across the pinnacles, we will descend to the Juniper Canyon Trail. After descending 0.6 miles on the Juniper Canyon trail, we will take a short detour on the Tunnel Trail to see the tunnel, before descending the rest of the Juniper Canyon Trail to the Balconies Trail. Balconies Trail turns northeast and heads gradually downhill into a canyon framed by tall rock formations and into the Balconies Cave itself. Balconies Cave is a talus cave, formed when boulders tumbled into this steep canyon and created a cave ceiling. We will be climbing down and around boulders and through openings to get across Balconies Cave, Don’t forget your headlamp. After leaving Balconies Cave, we will close the loop by taking the Old Pinnacles Trail back to the cars at the trailhead.

Bear Gulch/Condor Gulch Loop

The trailhead is located the Bear Gulch Day Use Area where we will start our hike going south on the Bear Gulch Trail to Bear Gulch Cave and the Bear Gulch Reservoir. From here we will head north up the Rim Trail to the junction with the High Peaks Trail. Above the Rim Trail, the High Peaks Trail climbs 850 feet over 1.5 miles to a junction with the Juniper Canyon Trail near Scout Peak. Those just wanting to visit the cave and not complete the loop hike, can simply turn right at the junction with the High Peaks Trail and head back to the trailhead on the Bear Gulch Trail. For those wanting to complete the loop, we will continue on the High Peaks Trail ( a small section going through the best section of the pinnacles of which we did on Saturday ) to pick up the Condor Gulch Trail and its descent to the Bear Gulch Trail and back to the cars.

Link to hiking maps:

Pinnacles Park Trail Map (

High Peaks Balconies Cave Loop (

Bear Gulch-Condor Gulch Loop (

Driving Directions ( Copied from the park website ) :


Using a Online Map Website:

Using the search term “Pinnacles National Park” or the official park address will yield a different actual point on the map depending on which site is used. For directions or location using online maps, copy and paste the following coordinates into the search:

For the East Side of Park (Pinnacles Visitor Center): 36.493545, -121.146646

Using GPS Navigation:

When entering the park address or name in a GPS device, motorists can be routed to a side of the park which they did not intent to visit. When using GPS, verify your route using a map or the driving directions listed below.

For devices which coordinates may be manually entered, use the above coordinates to aid in your navigation to the intended side of the park.


Take Hwy 101 North to the town of King City.

Exit at 1st Street.

Turn right toward King City.

Continue straight until 1st St turns into Bitterwater Rd (Monterey County G13).

Follow Bitterwater Rd until it intersects Hwy 25.

Turn left on Hwy 25 (North) and follow for ~15 miles.

Turn left onto Hwy 146 to enter the park.

Turn left into the Pinnacles Campground and check in at Pinnacles Visitor Center.

From LA area, 5 Fwy is also an option but requires more driving off the Fwy. Probably not best at night. Approximately 260 mi to Pinnacles from the Valley.

Take 5 Fwy north. Continue on the 5 where the 5 and 99 split.

Approximately 16 miles after Kettleman City/Hwy 41 (remaining on the 5), take exit 325 for Jayne Ave.

Turn left onto W Jayne Ave.

In approx 12 mi, turn left onto 198 W (McDonalds and Auto Zone at the intersection).

Drive ~34 mi, turn right onto Hwy 25.

Drive ~33 mi, turn left into Hwy 146.

Visitor’s Center will be on the left after a couple of miles.


The Fine Print

PLEASE – Know your limits and abilities. Bring snacks and drink plenty of liquids when hiking. Check weather conditions and dress accordingly and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Watching out for poison oak, snakes, ticks, uneven footing, spectacular views, beautiful fauna all while interacting with awesome (usually) fellow hikers can be extremely hazardous, rewarding and fun.

RSVP’s: If you RSVP for an event be responsible and update your RSVP if your plans change. If your plans change at the last second and you’re not able to update your RSVP also let us know. In my opinion a no-show is someone who has no regard for following the guidelines we request from our members and will risk being removed from future events that have a limit.


Rating a hike is subjective, meaning the difficulty of a hike will be in direct relation to how often you hike and the type of hike you prefer. Keep in mind that any hike can have the following: un-even hiking surfaces, various obstructions, water and/or water crossings or bouldering and/or rock hopping. A great hike will have all of these!

1 – A long walk

2 – 4 mile hike w/little elevation gain

3 – 5 mile hike w/up to1000 ft. elevation gain

4 – 5+ mile hike w/up to1500 ft. elevation gain (heart rate increases at times)

5 – 7+ mile hike w/over 1500 ft. elevation gain (heart rate increasing even more at times)

6 – 7+ mile hike w/over 2000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be trying to remember how to perform CPR)

7 – 5+ mile hike w/over 2000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be muttering expletives to yourself)

8 – 10+ mile hike w/over 3500 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be angry with the hike leader)

9 – 10+ mile hike w/over 5000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be thinking of reporting the hike leader to the authorities)

10 – Use your imagination

Class 3 Scrambling: Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands at times to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of boulders, steepness and extreme terrain. Some Class 3 routes have ropes in place for assistance.



I am a volunteer (i.e. not liable for the group). Safety is a priority for everyone in the group. Think of this as hiking with a group of friends.

Outdoor sports and other events we plan can be inherently dangerous and accidents may happen. By participating in any posted event, you’re taking responsibility for your own safety and well-being. The VHC Meetup Group and its organizers are not trained leaders and we do not confirm the qualifications of any of its members to lead or participate in trips. All participants take full responsibility for their own actions. If you choose to sign up for any VHC Meetup events, you are releasing the VHC Meetup Group and it’s organizers from all liability in case of possible injuries as stated in paragraph 6.2 of the Meetup “Terms of Service” located on the bottom of the Meetup website. Your personal safety depends on your own judgment and experience.


April 30 2021


Date: April 30
Time: 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Hike Categories:
Website: Visit Event Website


Pinnacles National Park

California, CA 95043 US

+ Google Map


Website: Visit Organizer Website


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