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March 10
Pinnacles National Monument

On a bright sunny warm March day, we head down early to Pinnacles National Monument, about a 2 hour drive south of Menlo Park. The park is 30 miles south of Hollister. Pinnacles is the remnants of an old volcano split in half by the San Andreas fault, what's left are rocky spires, cliffs and caves with numerous trails to explore. We arrive around 10:30am and do a strenuous 6.5 mile hike with a 1,300 foot elevation change up from the Visitor's Center to the top of the High Peaks Trail. The entire hike took us roughly 3.5 hours to complete. We started on the Bear Gulch Cave portion of the trail toward the reservoir. The upper portion of the cave was closed due to bat breeding. We then took the Rim Trail up toward the High Peaks Trail up to Scout Peak where to took a break. Then we headed up the steep and narrow section of High Peaks Trail which is mostly steps carved into the face of steep rocks with a needed hand rail to keep from falling off. From this portion of the trail we had the most fantastic views of the of Bear Valley and the Salinas Valley. Then we headed down toward Condor Gulch trail back toward the Visitor's Center. We then had rested and had lunch before heading back home. It was Toby's first time to the Pinnacles, and my first trip in about10 years.

Click here for more information on Pinnacles National Monument.

We start our hike heading toward Bear Gulch Cave.

My camera wasn't operating correctly, but some pics came out. The cave is pitch black, a flashlight is required.

A creek goes thru the cave, here a waterfall.

There are steps which ascend the cave, some natural light seeps through cracks in the ceiling.

These are 'talus' caves formed by boulders falling through narrow canyons.

At the end of the caves is Bear Gulch Reservoir, which feeds into the cave.

At the reservoir we took a break, I was greeted by a hungry squirrel... sorry no food from me.

Toby resting at the reservoir, with the Monolith rocks in the background,

We then continue up the Rim Trail toward High Peaks trail. The 2,000 foot spires loom in the background.

The trail cuts through the cliffs, here they cut a 'tunnel'.

At the top of Scouts Peak, where your treated to views of the Salinas Valley toward the west.

Toby along High Peaks trail with Bear Valley in the background.

Some jagged spires along the trail.

We ascend carved steps along High Peaks trail.

At the upper most portions of the trail we had expansive views of the park.

Toby atop one of the rocks... careful there is a massive drop on the other side.

It was the perfect 'hiking' weather to do this strenuous hike.

Much of the upper trail is precarious and narrow along cliff edges, thank goodness for the railings and carved steps.

Time to rest!

The Balconies Cliffs in the background. The rest of the hike is descending back to the Visitor's Center.

Along Condor Gulch, with the High Peaks in the background.

We were WAY up along those peaks.

While on Condor Gulch trail we crossed upon a garter snake.

After our hike was over we had lunch. We then left the park and took a last photo of the entrance sign.