Cycling Pinnacles National Park West
Ride 7.2 miles gaining 1,890’ at 4.5% average grade.
Pinnacles National Park gained it’s NPS status on January 10, 2013 (it gained national reserve status as of 1906 and national monument status as of 1908). Pinnacles of 26,606 acres, making it the seventh smallest national park. With 233,334 visitors in 2017, Pinnacles ranked 47th of the 59 national parks in visits per year.
“Some 23 million years ago multiple volcanoes erupted, flowed, and slid to form what would become Pinnacles National Park. What remains is a unique landscape. Travelers journey through chaparral, oak woodlands, and canyon bottoms. Hikers enter rare talus caves and emerge to towering rock spires teeming with life: prairie and peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and the inspiring California condor” (National Parks Service).
The best road bike climb into Pinnacles National Park is from the west on Highway 146.
The following climb summary is by PJAMM contributor Dan Razum of Campbell, California.
We begin at the intersection of Highway 146 and Metz Road. Highway 146 is a short highway which starts in the nearby small town of Soledad and ends at Pinnacles National Park.
The road is in good condition and quite smooth. It starts out as two lanes but then narrows down to basically one lane after a couple of miles.
Narrow road with no shoulder -- but this is a safe climb.
Since the road dead-ends at Pinnacles National Park, there is minimal traffic so the climb felt safe. There are many traffic signs along the road indicating turns and sharp curves, it looks as if they want to make sure motorists don't drive too fast along the narrow road.
The climb starts with a gentle grade and after about three miles there is a steep section that lasts for a mile. At the top of this steep section we see the first view of the Pinnacle rocks in the distance.
First sighting of Pinnacles.
We then have some short downhill sections and some more moderate climbing before arriving at the entrance gate to the park. During the COVID-19 pandemic there are no fees collected for any vehicles, but normally there is a $15 fee for bicycles. The peak of the climb is a short distance past the entrance gate.
Unfortunately, the Pinnacle rocks are not at the top of the climb so if you want to hike in the rocks you will need to ride a couple of miles further to the parking area. It isn't too far but it is 600 feet lower so there will be some climbing on the way back (with a couple of steep sections). The parking area has water and restrooms.
THE BEST HIKE IN THE PARK
High Peaks Trail, Pinnacles National Park
This is a strenuous but wonderful climb.
From the Eastern Entrance: Hike 6.4 miles with 1,685’ of climbing. Begin this loop just up Highway 146 from the Peaks View Picnic Area. Loop beings at the junction of Bench Trail and Bear Gulch Trail (see map). Hike west on Bear Gulch Trail for for 1.3 miles to the Pinnacles Road end parking lot and pick up High Peaks Trail there. Hike 4.6 miles on High Peak Trail climbing 1,308’. Turn right on Bench Trail for the final half-mile of flat to the finish. Map.
Alltrails writes of this hike: “Condor Gulch Trail to High Peaks Trail Loop is a 5.4 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Soledad, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, and nature trips and is accessible year-round.”
From the western entrance: Hike four miles with 1,205’ of climbing. Begin this loop at the end of Highway 146 at the Chaparral Trailhead Parking Lot. Hike 1.2 miles on Juniper Canyon Trail to Tunnel Trail. Turn left onto Tunnel Trail and hike one-half mile to High Peaks Trail. Turn right onto High Peaks Trail at mile 1.67, hike 0.64 miles on High Peaks Trail until it meets again with Juniper Canyon Trail. Turn right onto Juniper Canyon Trail and hike the remaining 1.7 miles back to the start/finish of the loop. Map.
Alltrails writes of this route: “Juniper Canyon Trail to High Peaks is a 4.5 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Paicines, California that features a river and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year.”