"Hike in Pinnacles and visit nearby Soledad!" Pinnacles National Monument by Ewingjr98

Pinnacles National Monument Travel Guide: 22 reviews and 115 photos

Located about an hour from Monterey is beautiful Pinnacles National Monument. The relatively small park consists of 26,000 acres of land filled with wilderness, trails, canyons, towering rocky peaks, and caves. Why is this area so different from the surrounding hills? The area we know as Pinnacles was the site of an ancient volcano along the San Andreas Fault. Over millions of years, the weather and tectonic activity have shaped the volcanic remains into steep cliffs and rocky peaks we enjoy today.

Pinnacles was established as a national monument in 1908, and many of the trails were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The park receives 150,000 visitors each year.

Pinnacles National Monument is located 10 miles east of Soledad and about 35 miles from Salinas. Entry costs $5 per vehicle or $3 for walk-ins. Free entry with an annual National Parks Pass, The America the Beautiful Annual Pass, and Golden Eagle Pass.

My visit...

During my visit, I arrived about noon at the west entrance. After checking in at the Ranger Station, I began my hike up the Juniper Canyon Trail (1.2 mi) to the Tunnel Trail (.6 mi). At the end of Tunnel, I turned right onto the Steep and Narrow section of the High Peaks Trail (.7 mi), where I stopped for lunch around 1pm.

I then continued down the east side of the mountain on High Peaks (1.5 mi). I followed the Rim Trail to the Reservoir (.4 mi), went through the cave along the Bear Gulch Cave Trail (.7 mi), then went to the east visitor center (.5 mi). Here I stopped to change my socks and get some water at about 2pm.

Next I turned up the Condor Gulch Trail to the High Peaks (1.7 mi). At this point, I was beat from already hiking this 1,200 foot rise in elevation once, so this time it took me almost an hour to go less than two miles. I stopped several times along the way to cool down as I didn't want to get too sweaty this late in the afternoon. I reached the top around 3pm.

At the top I turned onto the High Peaks Trail to the Tunnel Trail (.6 mi), then followed Tunnel back to Juniper Canyon (.6 mi). From here it was back to the parking area along Juniper Canyon (1.2 mi), where I arrived at 4pm.

My total journey was about 9.7 miles and took four hours. It was a great afternoon of hiking, with nice cool weather. All day I only saw four other people including a park ranger out working on the trails.

My Second Visit

I finally returned to Pinnacles in September 2007, this time with a few friends. We started at the west parking area, and climbed straight up to the High Peaks along the Juniper Canyon, Tunnel, and Steep and Narrow Trails (4.5 miles round trip). We had lunch on top of the peaks, on this beautiful fall day with numerous other hikers present. After returning to the parking area, we still had some free time, so we took a little side trip to the Balconies Caves and returned via the Balconies Cliffs Trail (2 mile round trip).

  • Last visit to Pinnacles National Monument: Jan 2008
  • Intro Updated Jan 23, 2008
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Reviews (15)

Comments (3)

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jan 19, 2009 at 9:24 AM

    What a wonderful page. I have put this one my list of things for me and my family to do. They love exploring as much as I do!

  • newsphotogirl's Profile Photo
    Aug 5, 2007 at 10:43 AM

    Great page! My husband and I are planning a day trip to the Pinnacles. Thanks for all the great info.

  • atufft's Profile Photo
    Mar 25, 2007 at 2:19 AM

    Gee whiz, this is an underappreciated VT page if there ever was one. Great leg work, photography, and writing...alan

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