Yesterday we got up extra early, at least relatively early for the two of us, and made our way down past Hollister to Pinnacles National Monument. Earlier in March of this year we had done the very typical Pinnacles hike around the high peaks but this time we decided to get away from the crowds of Boy Sprouts that had invaded the park and made our way to the desolate southern reaches of the park. We were able to get through the Bear Gulch Caves without much hassle but there wasn’t much to see this time of year as the creek that cuts through the cave is essentially dry and the upper reaches of the cave are closed. The Bear Gulch Reservoir was teeming with Boy Sprouts and there seemed to be more moms than dads with the cubs. I guess the dads were at home watching college football.
The Chalone Peaks trail meanders up 3.3 miles to North Chalone Peak that has an old fire lookout that is starting to decay in the weather. You get to climb over a fence twice, the fence is meant to keep the wild pigs at bay lest they uproot the vegetation inside the park. It also sports a fancy toilet, your tax dollars hard at work. The views to the south and west looked gave a great view of Salinas Valley and Ventana Wilderness (aka Big Sur). To the north you get a sweeping view of the peaks that give Pinnacles its name.
We decided to press on the “unmaintained” trail another 1.3 miles to South Chalone Peak. It was a bit of a slog uphill as the trail lived up to it’s “unmaintained” status on the map. The views probably weren’t worth the extra effort but it did tack on another 2.6 miles to the day. On the way back it was getting quite late in the day and we got some fantastic sunset views of the park. The sunset really made the reddish rocks in the park glow a pinkish color as the light gave way to night. The last little bit of the trail was a bit of a chore as it required headlamps. Apparently lamps are optional if you’re a climber as we saw several people sans lights making their way back to their cars.
P.S. on the way back to the Bay Area from Pinnacles and you’re hungry do yourself a favor and stop at Cafe Ella in Hollister for a delicious meal.
Distance: 11.9 miles
Elevation: 3100 ft
Time: 6hrs 7 minutes