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Hiking the High Peaks Loop in Pinnacles National Monument

Stashed in: California, Birds!, Birdwatching, National Parks

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Pinnacles doesn't make any sense on a map, but it makes all kinds of sense on foot. The park has two entrances, and NO THROUGH ROAD connecting the two. The west entrance is an easy drive from the Bay Area and has all the camping, the east entrance is accessible from LA via I-5. Driving from one entrance to the other takes like 4 hours on narrow country roads.

The thing you can't see from a car-centric perspective is that you can hike around basically the whole park in a half-day if you're in good shape. This hike takes you on a loop from the west all the way to the east entrance and back. You'll be hiking on what amounts to an old volcano, so it's going to be steep... but the views are amazing and there are often California condors!

I visited the park on an overnight the day after Christmas during a mild dry winter, and it was amazing! The campground was fully staffed but not at all crowded -- I think there were maybe 4 parties in the entire tent section -- and the day was perfect for hiking, nippy but sunny. Remember to bring a headlamp or flashlight for the cave bit, you'll have to throw yourself on the mercy of strangers otherwise.