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This loop takes you over the high peaks and through both caves to see the entire park.


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Map Key

11.2

Miles

18.1

KM

Loop

2,624' 800 m

High

984' 300 m

Low

2,457' 749 m

Up

2,458' 749 m

Down

8%

Avg Grade (5°)

92%

Max Grade (43°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Cave · Geological Significance · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

Starting at the Chaparral parking lot, you head up to the high peaks using the tunnel trail, cross over and down to the Bear Gulch Cave, visitor center, then follow the creek beds to the Balconies Cave and back to the parking lot. The Tunnel trail increases your chances of spotting condors as well as providing some exciting climbing.

Need to Know

It's a National Park so entrance fees apply. The gate doesn't open till 7:30 and the lot fills up fast. They do have an overflow lot further down the road and a visitor center near the entrance gate. There is a restroom and drinking fountains. Take enough water to at least make it to the Bear Gulch visitor center. There is no food for purchase that I have ever seen. Poison Oak is everywhere and hikers have spotted rattle snakes so stay on the trail. Binoculars are great for viewing condors. It can take a long time to get through the caves, and head lights are important as you need your hands free. High water can also be an issue, so check weather conditions if you're not wearing water proof boots.

Description

Take the High Peaks Trail then take a left on the Tunnel Trail, then take a right at the next fork. You'll come to steps carved in the rock and pipe hand rails. You'll squeeze under a ledge and arrive at a prime place to view condors. Continue on to the next peak where you'll find a restroom and you can make a short scramble to the top.

From here, head to the reservoir, keeping to the right at all forks. The entrance to the cave is right when you get to the dam, and it can become very crowded heading down the narrow stairs. Put your headlight on before you enter, and you'll have to squat or crawl in some places. In wet years, you may to step through water or try to rock hop.

A short distance from the caves is the visitor center, restrooms, and drinking fountains. You'll follow the creek bed down to the river bed, then take a left. It's a long, dry hike to the Balconies caves. Instead of stairs, you have to climb up the rocks through the cave. It's a short hike back to the parking lot from here.

Contacts

Shared By:

Dion Reeves

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 1 vote

#4390

Overall
  4.0 from 1 vote
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Recommended Route Rankings

#615

in California

#4,390

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20 Views Last Month
86 Since Mar 27, 2022
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Photos

A juvenile california condor, as evidenced by the black head, glides on thermals around the High Peaks.
Dec 1, 2018 near Soledad, CA
Beautiful views on High Peaks Trail!
Jan 27, 2016 near Soledad, CA
California Condor hanging out on the high peaks trail.
Feb 24, 2016 near Soledad, CA
Though you'll have to navigate tight clearances, Bear Gulch Cave provides both a respite from the sweltering heat and the unique opportunity to explore a talus cave.
Aug 9, 2018 near Soledad, CA
Pinnacles National Park on the Balconies trail.
Feb 2, 2016 near Soledad, CA
Condor 606 (Black 6) soars above the High Peaks. You can tell it is a condor by the white triangle under the wings instead of the all the feathers being white on the tips.
Dec 1, 2018 near Soledad, CA

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