Balconies Cave and Cliffs Trail – Pinnacles NP 8/28/20

Friday, August 28, 2020

Balconies Cave and Cliffs Trail – Pinnacles National Park, California

HOT, sunny, mid 90s

Ian, Court, Greg, Cat

3.1 miles

Warning: the pics on this post kind of suck. It was a bit smoky and I think there was also something off with my camera, so apologies in advance.

The four of us took a drive out to our newest National Park: Pinnacles. It’s about an hour and a half east of Carmel and Monterey and is quite spectacular.

I knew it had a reputation for being hot and it lived up to that reputation, especially when we had just come from 60 degrees in Carmel for 4 days. There are also zero natural water sources in the park during the summer, but we all had a good amount, so no problems there.

Pinnacles is also known for being a breeding ground and home base for endangered California Condors. We scanned the sky for condors as we hiked, but the birds of prey we saw were too far away to positively identify.

There are some long and tough trails that lead up into the High Peaks area, which I would love to do one day, but seeing as how we were limited on time and got there in the heat of the day, we decided to try out the shorter trail to the Balconies Caves and Cliffs. The caves were closed due to Covid (no staff at the park), but it was a nice trail anyway.

The rock formations were spectacular and the trails well marked. We crossed several dry creek beds that I think would be flowing well during the spring.

Looking up
You shall not pass

After we got to the closed cave entrance, we double backed and took the fork for the Cliffs. We switchbacked up above the caves and got some nice views as we battled the sun. One of the main rock formations on this trail is called Elephant Rock, which looms over you for most of the trail and can’t really be seen in full until you get up above on the cliffs. Looks like an elephant laying down and sleeping, in my opinion.

Elephant Rock

Greg also pointed out one that looked like a human skull in profile.

The views back down the valley were great and after we reached what we determined to be the high point of the trail, we turned back to retrace our steps. If the caves were open we could have made this a loop, but twas not to be. I hope to make it back out here one day, probably during the spring, and get deeper into the High Peaks and maybe even make a backpacking trip out of it.

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