Pinnacles National Park Travel Guide

Pinnacles National Park Travel Guide

Robin and I LOVE hiking, so when Skedaddle reached out about a route from San Francisco to Pinnacles National Park, we had to try it out! Pinnacles National Park has been on my list for ages. That’s one thing I love about Northern California – there is never a shortage of fun parks to explore! 

So, on a foggy San Francisco morning, Robin and I packed our hiking bags and set out to our Skedaddle meet-up point. Skedaddle is a new ride service app but is very different than ones that operate as taxis. Skedaddle is all about helping you go on adventures. You can start a route and people can join in. They are also donating $1 to the National Park Foundation for every rider traveling to any national park this summer. Can’t complain about that! For this trip, I started a route from my neighborhood to Pinnacles National Park, about a 2.5 hour drive south of the city. Other people discovered it and joined in on the ride – we didn’t know them, but they soon became friends! Our van was a nice one and even had outlets to charge our phones! 

Hold up – what if you are reading this and you’re thinking “I have a car, I don’t need a ride to the park”. Wrong! That brings me to my first Pinnacles hiking tip: start at one trailhead and have Skedaddle pick you up another trailhead at the end of the day!

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pinnacles national park map

What Robin and I discovered when we got to Pinnacles is that the hike we wanted to do required back tracking to get to our van at the end of the day. The hike is the one up Juniper Canyon Trail to Scout Peak (aka one of tallest points in the park) and then down the other side to the reservoir and Bear Gulch Caves at the bottom on the other side – but, it sucks hiking up a mountain and then down it… then up it again and down it again.  I spent about 30 seconds being really bummed out because I knew I wanted to see the caves, but I also knew my body couldn’t handle THAT much hiking. Then one of the gals on our Skedaddle route suggested that our driver just pick us up on the other side at the end of the day. BOOM! So happy we took Skedaddle to the park for reasons like this! 

We were dropped off at the Chaparral parking lot on the West Side of the park and started our hike up Juniper Canyon Trail. You can choose to veer off to the Balconies about halfway up the mountain and circle back to the Juniper Canyon Trail if you want (though that’s more uphill hiking!) Instead, I recommend taking Juniper Canyon Trail all the way up to Scout Peak to reward yourself with an amazing view. Instead of climbing even further up to the High Peaks Trail (it gets dicey, quickly, head down the other side of the mountain. On this side, you’ll find great views of the pinnacles! Towards the bottom, you’ll have the choice to take Moses Springs trail or the Rim Trail. Take the Rim Trail (it’s just a tiny bit more hiking up, I promise!) and follow that until you get to the Bear Gulch Reservoir! 

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We packed a light lunch of PBJ sandwiches and found some shade to plop down in next to the water. I think the reservoir is much larger in the spring – it gets very hot here in the summer and the heat dries up most of the water and springs. But it was still a peaceful place to rest after such a long hike! Sadly, you can’t swim in the Bear Gulch Reservoir, but you can splash your face with the cool water, which felt amazing. That day was around 100 degrees, so we were burning up! 

Pro Tip: visit during the spring before the summer heat hits! 

Following lunch, we continued down Moses Spring Trail which quickly led to the Bear Gulch Caves! This is was I was most excited for! It was around 2pm and the light was shinning into the cave well, so we didn’t need flashlights. That being said, there are many signs that say you need flashlights, so I’m guessing it’s darker at different points throughout the day. Pack a flashlight or get ready to use your cellphone just in case! 

The rest of the hike to the Bear Gulch Parking Lot is smooth sailing from here. In total, that route is about 4.5 miles, so a pretty decent hike! We found our Skedaddle van waiting for us in the Bear Gulch Parking Lot and I was so so so happy that I didn’t have to turn around and hike that 4.5 route all over again!  

Pinnacles National Park Skedaddle

If you are entering on the East Side, you have the choice of just visiting the Bear Gulch Reservoir and then hiking up to Scouts’ Peek and then down again on the same side. But, I’d recommend the full hike by starting on the West End. So, what are you waiting for?

Thank you to Skedaddle for sponsoring this post. 


1 Comment

  1. Vicki
    August 26, 2017 / 5:55 pm

    I remember visiting Pinnacles in 1974 and thinking it was the most beautiful park I’d ever been to. I realize it was quite a while ago, but if my memory is correct we were there in late spring, and there was mist rising from the lake, giving the whole place a magical feeling. I’d love to go back!

    And I love hearing about Skedaddle. How else do people without cars get to awesome natural places like this?