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High Peaks Loop from West Chaparral Parking

Intermediate
 5.0 (1) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A lollipop run that provides access to the High Peaks and an opportunity to catch a glimpse of California Condors.


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Map Key

4.2

Miles

6.8

KM

71%

Runnable

2,561' 781 m

High

1,394' 425 m

Low

1,259' 384 m

Up

1,258' 384 m

Down

11%

Avg Grade (6°)

48%

Max Grade (26°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Geological Significance · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

The west entrance of Pinnacles National Park is open daily, from 7:30am to 8:00pm, Pacific Time. Entrance fees are also collected year round.

Overview

The High Peaks Loop from the West Chaparral parking area provides the opportunity to visit the high peaks, enjoy views of the surrounding area (especially the Salinas Valley to the west) and the chance to see California condors. The trail climbs up Juniper Canyon Trail, offering an assortment of wildflowers for your viewing pleasure depending on the time of year you go. Once you get out of the canyon, be on the lookout for condors perched on rock formations or in pine trees along the trail. When you arrive at Scout Peak, there is a restroom here that you can use before tackling the steep and narrow portion of the high peaks trail. Enjoy the views through this part of the run.

To the west, you have the Salinas Valley. To the east, you can see evidence of the San Andreas fault and tectonic activity at work. Sweeping views about. Once you tackle the staircase and arrive at the High Peaks, enjoy the views and be on the lookout for condors. They can be seen flying overhead and even perched on rocks above you. You might meet a member of the condor crew, who are tracking the birds via radio transmitter. From here, you descend the another steep staircase and make your way to the junction of the tunnel trail. Take a left and descend down to a tunnel in the rocks. After going through the tunnel, you meet back up with the Juniper Canyon Trail and can descend back to your car. Once you are back at your car, you have done a little over four miles, but have gotten to experience some of the best views in the park.

Need to Know

There is a restrooom at the West Chaparral parking lot and a pit toilet at the junction of the High Peaks and Juniper Canyon trails. Otherwise, there are no services along this run. The steep and narrow section of the High Peaks trail requires ascending and descending a set of steep steps about the width of your foot cut into the rock face. Consider your capability to handle this challenge (see photos) before attempting this part of the run.

Runner Notes

The trail goes through the steep and narrow section of the High Peaks, so running through this section is difficult. Otherwise, the trail is fairly clear of obstacles. Locals run through the area,

Description

The trail starts at the West Chaparral parking area and ascends along the Juniper Canyon Trail. The trail climbs up the side of the canyon through a forest of chaparral and other varieties of trees. In the late winter and spring time, flowers like shooting stars and California Poppys can be seen along the trail. The trail criss-crosses a small, usually dry creek before it starts climbing a series of switchbacks.

The trees begin to give way and the trail starts to open up to views of the rock formations above you. As you climb higher, the views improve. At a little over a mile, you pass the junction with Tunnel Trail on the left, which you'll return via later in the run. You can also follow the tunnel trail up to the High Peaks trail and run that section in reverse if you so choose. Continuing up Juniper Canyon, the switchbacks continue. Be on the lookout for California Condors perched in the pine trees or on the rocks, particularly if you are running this in the morning. They may be hanging out waiting for the temperature to warm up before they start their daily activities.

At 1.75 miles, the Juniper Canyon Trail meets up with the High Peaks trail at Scout Peak, where there are restroom facilities and a bench for you to rest on. Enjoy the views of the west side of the park from here, they are stunning.

Follow the High Peaks Trail to the left to make your way through the Steep and Narrow section. The trail climbs slightly before descending to the base of the high peaks. Here, you need to navigate stairs cut into the rocks. There is a short set of steps and railing, before you climb up a ravine via stone stairs and then you reach the final set of steps that climbs 30-40 feet up the side of the rock. There's a hand rail that you can use. Once you make it to the high peaks, enjoy the view off to the east side of the park, where you can see the impact that the San Andreas fault has had on the landscape.

Be on the look out for condors, who may be perched on the rock formations around and above you. They can also be seen soaring around the high peaks if you are lucky. After the enjoying the view and maybe grabbing a snack, you start your descent from the high peaks. There is a wooden platform that you have to cross before descending two more sets of stairs, roughly 20 feet high apiece. Use the hand rails and take your time. The trail meanders through the rocks until you arrive at the junction with the Tunnel Trail at roughly 2.5 miles. From here, its mostly downhill.

The trail descends a series of switchbacks until it comes to the tunnel, which was hewn out of the rock by the CCC in the 1930s. Once you pass through the tunnel, you arrive back at the junction with the Juniper Canyon Trail that you passed earlier. From here you continue straight (unless you want to do another lap) and make your way back down to the parking lot.

Flora & Fauna

Lupines, Indian Paintbrush, California Poppys, Milk Maids, Shooting Stars, and other wildflowers can be seen along the trail in the winter and spring. Ravens, swifts, turkey vultures and California condors might be seen circling around the high peaks.Be on the lookout for California condors as you run up the trail in the pine trees and rock ledges, especially as you near the high peaks. They like to rest/roost in this area in the mornings.

History & Background

This loop trail provides a glimpse of the contributions made by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the park during the 1930s. The trails in the park are in large part the efforts of the CCC. When you reach Scout Peak, the restroom there was constructed by the CCC. As you climb the steps in the "steep and narrow" portion of the high peaks, they were the ones who carved those into the stone. The CCC worked in Pinnacles during the late fall, winters, and spring before it got too hot. In the summers, they would work in parks Sequoia and Kings Canyon in the Sierras until the snow returned.

Contacts

Shared By:

David Hitchcock

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 1 vote

#1634

Overall
  5.0 from 1 vote
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Recommended Route Rankings

#233

in California

#1,634

Overall
15 Views Last Month
95 Since Mar 22, 2020
Intermediate

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Photos

Beautiful views on High Peaks Trail!
Jan 27, 2016 near Soledad, CA
The view of the Pinnacles from the western side of the park (as seen near the junction between Juniper Canyon Trail and the High Peaks) proved one of our favorites.
Aug 9, 2018 near Soledad, CA
California Condor hanging out on the high peaks trail.
Feb 24, 2016 near Soledad, CA
Condor 688 (Black 88).  If you visit the High Peaks, especially in the afternoon, you may get lucky to see one of these endangered animals.
Dec 1, 2018 near Soledad, CA
Part of the High Peaks Trail carved into the side of the rocks
Mar 31, 2020 near Soledad, CA
The view down Tunnel Trail.
May 26, 2015 near Soledad, CA

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