Planning Your Time
Pinnacles in One Day
Begin your day early by arriving at the west entrance, stopping briefly at the West Pinnacles Visitor Contact Station to pick up maps. Continue on Highway 146 about 2 miles to the Chaparral Trailhead parking lot, where you can view the park's impressive peaks. The best way to experience them is by hiking, so grab your flashlight and some water and follow the Balconies Trail from the parking lot. This mostly level 1-mile hike takes you along the shaded canyon floor to the Balconies Cave, where you must duck under boulders and sometimes squeeze through talus passages. From the cave you can hike an extra ½-mile on the Balconies Cliff Trail, climbing to fantastic views east to Machete Ridge. Follow the trail down to the back side of the caves, and return through the caves to the original trail. Upon returning to your car, head west to Soledad.
From Soledad follow U.S. 101 south about 19 miles to King City, and exit at 1st Street. Follow the East Pinnacles signs to Highway 25 and continue north until you reach Highway 146 and the park's east entrance.
If the store adjacent to the Pinnacles Visitor Center is open, pick up a drink or a snack before continuing on Highway 146 a little more than 2 miles to the turnoff for the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. The Bear Gulch Nature Center is open seasonally as staffing permits. If the center is open, check out its displays, which include a seismograph (the park lies near the San Andreas Fault). Just past the nature center, there's a small parking lot with shaded tables, a perfect place for a picnic. Make sure you have your water and flashlight with you as you take the Bear Gulch Trail from the picnic area to the Moses Spring Trail (0.2 mile). Once you get to the caves (about 0.3 mile), you'll scramble through until you come to a long staircase cut into the stone; very shortly the trail will bring you to the Bear Gulch Reservoir. Follow the Rim Trail as it leaves the reservoir for views of the peaks to the east and west. After a switchback descent, it connects again with the Moses Spring Trail (0.7 mile), which leads back to the parking lot.