Cave · Views
Need to Know
There is a $10 day use fee for vehicles. Bathrooms and water are available at the Atlatl Rock parking area, along with an interesting view of ancient petroglyphs.
The full Pinnacles Loop should not be attempted by less experienced trail users. Navigation along the second half is difficult and primarily done by moving between trail markers. The easily-seen Atlatl Rock and parking area in the distance provide a good safety net in case one becomes disoriented, but because of this, the trail should not be attempted when darkness or low visibility is a possibility. Plan to finish at least an hour before sundown. While the trail isn't particularly technical, Pinnacles' challenges merit a more difficult rating than other routes of this length / grade.
As with most desert trails, there is no shade or water along Pinnacles Loop. Bring more water than you think you'll need, and only attempt this trail during the cooler parts of the day / season. Pinnacles is more remote than most trails, so be sure to advise someone of where you're going and when to expect to hear back.
A small sign marking the trailhead can be found directly across the road from Atlatl Rock parking. While the sign says the trail is unmarked, this isn't the case. Metal post trail markers are spaced several hundred feet apart along the trail, providing the primary means of navigation for the latter half.
The initial two miles of Pinnacles is a somewhat unpleasant run through a dry creek wash. Creek bed "trails" tend to be either very sandy or very rocky, and this section includes both. With little to look at and the difficulty of sinking into uphill sandy terrain, the trail here deters many visitors - but press on, better features lie ahead. On the upside, it's impossible to get lost, as the trail never ventures from the wash.
At the mile and a half point, the trail rounds the large foothills to its right, and the namesake Pinnacles come into view. Keep an eye out for a trail marker with a small arrow pointing right, leading straight through the formations. If you find yourself circling around the Pinnacles to the left, you've missed it.
The brilliantly colored smoothrock formations surrounding the trail are what make this run worthwhile. There are plenty of opportunities to explore, climb, and look into small natural caves. Due to the terrain, trail markers aren't placed through this segment, but continuing north, there is really only one good way through. Less experienced runners should turn around at this point.
Depending on your route, some light scrambling will lead out of the Pinnacles to the north. The trail is hard to see here, so look for another marker after cresting the hill. Eventually the trail rejoins another dry wash and continues to circle northeast. As the end of the foothills fade off on your right, continue along the wash. It'll feel like you've gone too far, so keep an eye out for a series of three markers leading out. The first points forward along the wash. A few hundred feet later, another points right, exiting the creek bed, and the third confirms your route a few hundred feet beyond that. Make sure you see all three.
The last segment is a mostly straight, marker-to-marker run through the desert flatlands. Most of the trail here is unidentifiable, so you're using the sign posts for orientation. Navigation here is challenging, so if you get lost, aim towards the parking area straight ahead - it's easy to see. There is no marker where you rejoin the outbound trail, but the GPS track can help. It's a quick run back to the start.
Shared By: Brendan Ross