“A flat, moderate trail that follows West Fork Chalone Creek to near Balconies Cave.”
— QuinTCM TCM
Check for raptor closures before attempting any off-trail hiking or climbing.
Features: River/Creek — Wildflowers
Dogs: No Dogs
The trailhead is accessed at the north end of a parking lot where Highway 146 ends on the east side of the park. Follow the trail north around a slight bend, where a bridge crossing over the dry creek bed will come into view. Across this bridge begins the Bench Trail
. Don't cross this bridge. Just before reaching the bridge, turn north to stay on the Old Pinnacles Trail. Follow this flat, moderate trail as it snakes along next to West Fork Chalone Creek. The trail slowly turns west, then southwest before terminating at the junction with Balconies Cliffs Trails
and Balconies Cave Trail
in and area called the Balconies.
Along the route, the trail makes several creek crossings. Although West Fork Chalone Creek is mostly dry, some of these crossings are wet. The first crossing is over a large bridge while all the others will require hopping on rocks or walking around where possible. The water is never more than ankle deep.
Flora & Fauna
Pinnacles is currently one of five release sites for California Condors. The park hosts more than thirty of these scavengers. These birds are best seen in the higher regions of the park and can also often be seen on a hill behind the campsites. Pinnacles is also home to many species of raptors and other birds and is an excellent area for birding.
Wild flowers like Larkspur, California buckeye, Elegant clarkia, California buckwheat, Mariposa lily, Bush poppy, Gray mule-ears, Indian Warrior, California poppy and many others are abundant in spring.
Look for manzanita shrubs interspersed among patches of chaparral.
The park is also home to around 300 different species of lichens, which are easily visible on the many rock formations they color.
Listen for the croaks of the California red-legged frog coming from the creek (especially near the bridge crossings).