7/21/14 Another trip to the Bay Area gave me a chance to visit Pinnacles National Park, the newest National Park in the system, just established in 2013. I took a great 13 mile loop around the park with about 1,500' of gain.
1 After making the roughly two hour drive from the Bay Area, I end-up in the middle of nowhere South of Hollister and enter Pinnacles National Park. After stopping at the East entrance Visitor's Center to get some trail recommendations from the Ranger, I head out. There's some nice single track near the trailhead on the Bear Gulch trail.
2 There was some intense work done on this trail back in the 1930s by the CCC.
3 The trail gets narrow in places as it squeezes through the talus rocks.
4 Approaching the entrance to the Bear Gulch Trail, one of the primary attractions of the National Park.
5 Entrance to the cave. It's not a traditional underground cave but is instead a talus cave formed by large boulders that have fallen from the cliffs above.
6 This area of the cave is only partially enclosed.
7 Now getting into the cave proper. A gate guards the entrance for times of the year when access is closed.
8 It's actually much darker than it appears in the pictures. My new camera works so well in low light, it's magnifying the small amount of light streaming in from the gaps in the boulders above. A headlamp is definitely required through most of the cave.
9 There's an eleboate set of staircases carved into the rocks and winding through the cave.
10 It reminds me of the line for the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland except with real rocks.
11 Climbing up and out of one area of the cave.
12 An upper section of the cave is closed because it's mating season for one of the bat species that live here.
13 Out of the cave and continuing around the loop.
14 The park is a very popular rock clibing location. There are tons of spots along the trail with offshoots leading to designated climbing areas.
15 Another interesting talus spot along the trail with a small creek cutting through the rock (even in this incredibly dry year).
16 Amazing rock angles.
17 Leaving the cave area.
18 The Bear Gulch Reservoir.
19 Probably not as green as in wetter years, but still some nice scenery.
20 The trail is now up on the ridge near Scout Peak, one of the higher peaks in the park at 2,605'.
21 Some nice chapparal single track along the ridge.
22 More amazing trail work.
23 Getting into some nice pines.
24 There are crazy rock formations throughout the park.
25 Almost halfway around the loop on the High Peaks trail and there are now views towards the West entrance of the park.
26 I love this kind of trail.
27 Approaching the "Steep and Narrow Section" of the High Peaks trail. A famous area of the park with near vertical sections of trail carved into the rock by the CCC.
28 A view of a couple hikers heading down a steep section of the trail.
29 Bridge over a little gorge and some railing saving you from a drop off the cliff.
30 "Steps" in another near vertical section of trail.
31 Now descending towards the Chapparral Trailhead at the West entrance.
32 The crags here are home to a variety of birds of prey including the California Condor and Osprey.
33 Another great trail tunnel.
34 Now on the Balconies Trail around the North side of the loop.
35 Entrance to the Balconies Cave, a smaller but in some ways more interesting version of the Bear Gulch cave.
36 Tight entrance.
37 Another misleading picture. This is actually a very dark area with light streaming in from an opening in the rock.
38 Climbing down into a deeper area of the cave. You can see a little white reflective arrow painted on the rock below. The "trail" goes down and to the right into the pitch black.
39 Leaving the cave.
40 Out the other side and through the gate. Fortunately, the cave was open today.
41 Moving on from the cave area.
42 Now on the Old Pinnacles trail heading around the last of the loop and back to where I started. One more National Park checked off the to-do list!