“The trail climbs to incredible views of the unique rock formations that give the park its name.”
— QuinTCM TCM
Birding · Views · Wildflowers
Kids would definitely enjoy the Steep and Narrow Section of this trail. It is the getting there and the getting back that they might not enjoy.
Check for raptor closures before attempting any off-trail hiking or climbing.
From the trailhead at the junction with the Moses Spring Trail
, follow this gradually ascending trail as it moves past chaparral-covered hillsides and lichen covered rock formations. Pass the junction for the Rim Trail
and continue on up past the obvious rock formations called The Carousel and The Anvil. Passing The Anvil, the trail opens up with a gulch on the southwest side of the trail and a series of pinnacles on the north-east side. The most recognizable of the pinnacles to the northeast are Pipsqueak Pinnacle and The Snout. In the gulch to the southwest, look for a pinnacle called The Unmentionable, named thus for obvious reasons.
Continuing along, the trail levels out for a short distance and a cliff face called Pinch or Lynch Wall can bee seen up beyond on the trail and slightly to the left. The trail eventually leads to a small man-made tunnel near the rock formations called Sew What Needles. Looking northeast, formations like The Flat-Iron, Salathe's Sliver, Nelson's Needle, and Generation Gap Pinnacle are easily visible. At this point, the trail begins to make a more steep ascent through a series of switchbacks before it levels out at the junction with the Tunnel Trail
and the Steep and Narrow Section of the High Peaks
Trail. A small bathroom is located here as well. It is also possible to access Scout Peak (2,605 ft, 794m) by hiking off-trail from this location.
The Steep and Narrow section of the High Peaks
Trail consists of narrow stairs carved into the rock by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, as well as narrow passages protected by wooden walkways that pass over steep cliffs. This is indeed the highlight of the High Peaks
Trail. Many rock formations are easily seen from this section of the trail, the most notable being Photographer's Delight, Long's Folly, The Fingers, and Condor Crags.
Following the Steep and Narrow Section, the trail meets the junction with the Tunnel Trail
before opening up and descending towards Condor Gulch and the junction with the Condor Gulch Trail
. Continue past the Condor Gulch Trail
and chaparral-covered hillsides to where the trail ends at the Bench Trail
Flora & Fauna
Pinnacles is currently one of five release sites for California Condors. The park hosts more than thirty of these scavengers. These birds are best seen in the higher regions of the park and can also often be seen on a hill behind the campsites. Pinnacles is also home to many species of raptors and other birds and is an excellent area for birding.
Wildflowers like Larkspur, California buckeye, Elegant clarkia, California buckwheat, Mariposa lily, Bush poppy, Gray mule-ears, Indian Warrior, California poppy and many others are abundant in spring.
Look for manzanita shrubs interspersed among patches of chaparral.
The park is also home to around 300 different species of lichens, which are easily visible on the many rock formations they color.