This run is a great opportunity to explore one of the natural talus caves of Pinnacles National Park. Be sure to bring a flashlight which is required if you want to explore the cave!
Features: Birding — Cave — Views — Wildlife
Dogs: No Dogs
The caves can be closed suddenly due to storms and high water. Please check before your visit to get the most current cave status. A flashlight is required to enter the cave. Also, check for raptor closures before attempting any off-trail activities.
A flashlight or headlamp is required for the cave portion of the Balconies Cave Trail
. The section through the cave may require some scrambling or climbing so be prepared to slow down and take your time through the cave.
Parking for this run is located at the Chaparral Picnic Area parking lot. From here, start out on the Balconies Trail
. This is an easy, flat trail leading to the Balconies area of the park. The trail is at first open and airy, offering views of two of Pinnacles most imposing rock formations, Machete Ridge to the east and the Balconies to the west.
At the third small bridge crossing, however, the trail enters the Balconies area and gets close to the rock formations. The trail passes formations called the Shepherd, Hummingbird Spire, the Gameshow, and the obviously looming large, Machete Ridge. The trail ends at a junction with the Balconies Cliffs Trails
and the Balconies Cave Trail
after a small bridge crossing.
Take a right onto the Balconies Cave Trail
. The trail begins by climbing over a large rock formation next to Machete Ridge, which sits to the east, and beneath another rock formation called Chockstone Dome. Continue through a metal gate and pass beneath a series of smaller chockstones inside of a gravel-filled cleft.
From here, continue climbing and scrambling through the cave, using your flashlight or headlamp to reveal the path. Eventually, the cave opens up near another metal gate. Pass through the metal gate and follow the small stream by scrambling over some more rocks until the trail opens up a bit before coming to a junction with Old Pinnacles Trail
and the Balconies Cliffs Trails
Take a left onto Balconies Cliffs Trails
. For much of this trail, the Balconies' water streaked face looms over the trail. Other rock formations along this route include Osiris, Smiling Simian, and Toogs. Eventually, the trail will connect back to the Balconies Trail
which you'll follow back to the parking lot to finish out the run.
Keep an eye open for California condors, prairie falcons, golden eagles, and other birds.