Pinnacles National Monument
November 8-11, 2003
On November 8th I left work at 4:30 pm and drove to Pinnacles National Monument which
is located in the coastal range near Hollister, CA.  I went to the eastern part of the
park.  There are two sides, east and west, and they are connected by trails, but not by a
road.  I chose the east because there is a campground on that side.  It's privately ran and
not a Park Service campground, but it's pretty nice.  They have a website for more
information and reservations   I stayed in site 24 and pitched my tent
underneath a huge sprawling live oak tree next to the creek.  Although it was a beautiful
spot, I would not recommend you sleep underneath an oak tree.  Why, you may ask?  Well,
turns out the place is pretty much overrun with wild pigs.  And what do wild pigs like to
eat?  Acorns!  I had pigs snuffling and snorting around my tent each night!

It was a beautiful moonlit drive and I arrived at the campsite a little after 8:00 pm.  In
the morning my sister Kristine and brother-in-law Joe drove down from their home near
San Francisco and we met at the Visitor Center.  We then hiked up the Bear Gulch Trail
to the High Peaks Trail then looped back down through Condor Gulch.  This loop was 5.4
miles and it was a good introduction to the Park.
Pinnacles National Monument encompasses what was once a volcano, well 1/2 a volcano.  
Where's the other half?  190 miles south.  It was split apart by the San Andreas Fault
and the western half has slid 190 miles north away from the eastern half.  And now this
half volcano has eroded down to an amazing collection of rock spires, hoodos, and, yes,
pinnacles.  The trails are great and range from easy walks along Chalone Creek to
strenuous treks up to the tops of the pinnacles on the High Peaks Trail.  Many were built
by the CCC and they did a fantastic job of locating them in picturesque places.  There are
areas where the trails go through tunnels, up carved steps in the rock, up and over and
around and through the pinnacles, and also through caves :)
Kris and Joe on the Bear
Gulch Trail
Just one of hundreds of
On Monday morning I hiked the Moses Spring Trail to the Rim Trail and then back to the
Bear Gulch Trail, a 2.2 mile loop.  If you have time for only a short trail, I would pick this
one.  Bear Gulch is shady and cool and there are little ferny mossy hollows that are just
beautiful and a nice respite from the surrounding arid landscape.  There are also caves
here that are open at certain times.  They were closed when I was there because of
endangered Townsend's Big-Eared Bats nesting inside.
Tunnels and Narrow Trails
Then I headed out the Chalone Creek Trail.  This trail is relatively level and you
eventually reach the Balconies Cave area.  On the way I had an encounter with a few wild
pigs.  I saw two smaller pigs go trotting by (baby pigs) then a medium sized one (mama
pig), then, yep, you guessed it, papa pig - a huge boar. I read they can get up to 400 pounds
and this guy must've been close. He saw me, I had stopped and backed away when I saw
the first two, he snorted and grunted and then he did a sort of bluff charge at me. I
started yelling and waving my hands about. He turned when he was about 15 feet from me,
but I was freaked out for the rest of the hike.

Once I reached and went through the Balconies Cave I decided to keep on going rather
than retrace my steps.  It was getting late in the afternoon but I trucked up the Juniper
Canyon Trail, an exceedingly steep trail on the west side, and made it up to the Tunnel
Trail.  I mistakingly thought that once I reached the Tunnel Trail it would be all downhill
from there.  Wrong!  The Tunnel Trail is also exceedingly steep and finally I made it up to
the High Peaks Trail.  It was murder coming down that trail back to Chalone Creek, but I
made it back before it got too dark.  The Park closes at 6:00 pm and I got back to my
truck around 5:30.  It was a long day of hiking!  I figured I did about 10.3 miles that day
including 2,000 feet elevation gain and loss, most of it at the end of the day.
Remember to bring lots of water on your hikes and a headlamp or flashlight if you want to
visit the caves.  I also heard that airhorns may be good to bring to scare away the pigs
should they charge you like they did me!  Pinnacles is a day-use park and altogether there
are over 30 miles of trails.

More about this area
Back to Road Trips
Back to Tarol's Homepage
Moses Spring Trail to the
Bear Gulch Reservoir
Bear Gulch Reservoir
Entrance to Balconies Cave
Juniper Canyon and
Tunnel Trails
See where the trail
goes across a bridge
and into a tunnel?