Pinnacles National Monument is a dry terrain capped with disfigured spires that reach into the sky. In the springtime, Pinnacles National Monument brings temperate weather, colorful blooms, flowing streams and abundant wildlife.
Day hikes are roughly 8.5 miles in length and about 7-9 hours in duration. Trails include rough stairs hewn from the rock face, several tight fits and low overhangs. Sections of the trail are very steep and a moderate level of physical activity is required. Folks who are afraid of heights or claustrophobic may feel uncomfortable.
Meet at the Sanborn Park Hostel by 6:15 pm Friday, April 23, to determine carpool arrangements.
- Participants are responsible for their own camping equipment, gear, and food. A small, communal cooking stove for hot water etc. will be provided. Wear layered clothes and come prepared for any kind of weather.
- Recommended gear for campground: tent, sleeping bag, comfortable shoes, cook stove, cooking utensils, mosquito repellent, flashlight.
- Recommended gear for day hikes: day pack, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, hiking boots, comfortable pair of extra shoes, camera, lunch, two liters of water per person per day. A flashlight is required for the cave.
Friday, April 23, 1999
We will depart Sanborn Park Hostel as a group at 6:30 pm, arriving at Pinnacles Campground around 8:30 pm to unpack. We’ll enjoy a dessert of marshmallows and hot chocolate around the fire.
Saturday, April 24, 1999
We begin the morning with a decent breakfast and hit the trail by 8 am. We’ll hike to the Chalone Creek area and ascend the High Peaks Trail. After an initial steep incline, the trail opens and offers substantial views of Bear Gulch Reservoir, Balconies Cliffs, Mount Defiance and parts of the lush Moses Spring area. The trail winds among the spires then suddenly climb up the rock face, over support bridges, and to the picturesque top. We break for lunch overlooking the monument at our feet. Descending the trail we are likely to encounter a multitude of rock climbers near a small reservoir. We enter the Bear Gulch Caves, though we quickly yield onto the lush Moses Spring Trail. The cave is a roosting colony for endangered bats in the spring and should not be disturbed. Arriving at the Visitors Center we break for water and a short rest before continuing along a tree lined stream and returning to the camp. In the evening we “put our feet up”, enjoy the night and relax around the fire.
Sunday, April 25, 1999
Sunday we pack our tents and clean our camp site before hiking the Old Pinnacles Trail. This is a rocky, yet relatively easy hike to the base of some spectacular spires – a short distance beyond lie the quarter of a mile long, Balconies Cave. The cave is dark and will require flashlights. After the cave, the trail ascends to the Balconies Cliff Trail (.8 mile) with imposing views of Machete Ridge and Balconies which are sometimes called, “Little Yosemite.” Look for prairie falcons and golden eagles. The path returns to the Old Pinnacles Trail and a gentle descent to the parking area. We’ll depart in the afternoon about 2 pm with plenty of light for a safe drive back to the South Bay.
CAMPGROUND & FACILITIES
The Pinnacles Campground is just outside the park boundary and provides a good base for exploring the monument. We will be tent camping. The camping areas include two adjoined sites along a creek. Parking for two vehicles is provided. Additional vehicles can park for $3 per day in the campgrounds lot. The campground includes toilets, coin-operated showers, and a campground store. Fires are permitted in fire pits. Wood for a central fire will be included.
Pinnacles National Monument is roughly a two-hour drive south from San Jose. From Sanborn Park Hostel drive to 85 Freeway and head south. Junction of Hwy 101 continues south. Drive past Gilroy to Hwy 25, drive toward Hollister. Continue through Hollister on Hwy 25, drive 31 miles south is the monument. Turn right on Hwy 146 follow signs. Pinnacles Campground is located on the left.
Dates: April 23-25, 1999
Trip Leader: Mark Hougardy
Price: $32.00 per person (reservations required)
Carpool Fee: $15
Accommodations: Tent Camping
Trip Rating: Moderate