Hiking, caving and climbing can be a lot of fun at Pinnacles; however, you are a long way from medical assistance, so please plan ahead. Wear sturdy shoes; carry water and a flashlight. Remember the sun and heat...snakes and poison oak...know your rock climbing and hiking limitations...and have a safe, good time. Safety first, last, and always!!!

Talus Caves
If you are planning on hiking through the Balconies Cave or the Bear Gulch Cave, you will need to bring a flashlight. The Bear Gulch Cave is open seasonally. Flashlights are required. The caves are dark and flowing water may cover the trail. You will encounter low ceilings; twisting, narrow passages; uneven footing and a dark environment. Please be careful of your head, where you place your feet, and use a flashlight! Please avoid unnecessary noise in the cave which can be disturbing to wildlife and visitors.

Hiking in Hot Weather
Hikers may encounter high temperatures, often above 100º F, during the summer and early fall months (current Pinnacles weather forecast). Please carry and drink plenty of water. Bring hats, sunscreen, and light-colored clothing to protect you from the sun. Drinking water is only available in the developed areas -- there is no water available on any of the trails.

Trail Safety
All the trails are unpaved, rocky in places, and sometimes steep and uneven. It is best to wear sturdy shoes or boots with ankle support and tread that will prevent slipping and sliding. Sneakers, thongs, dress shoes or shoes with heels lack the support and traction required for safe and comfortable hiking.
Wet weather in particular may make any trail impassable. The following trails are especially subject to impacts from flooding: Old Pinnacles Trail, North Wilderness Trail, South Wilderness Trail, Chalone Peak Trail, Balconies Trail, and Bear Gulch Trail. When planning a hike, keep in mind that even if it is not currently raining, stream levels may continue rising as a result of rain that fell up to six hours earlier.
Rock and tree falls can occur over roads and trails as well; Be especially cautious when visiting during or immediately after a storm!

Rock Climbing
Rock climbers should remain alert for rocks that may become dislodged or equipment that may be dropped onto unwary hikers below. Existing protection hardware is not maintained by the park and should be tested before using. Be aware of advisories concerning cliff-nesting birds.

Visitors experiencing injuries due to falls, slips, animal bites, etc. may have to wait a long time from incident to medical attention. This is especially true when climbing accidents occur. Be prepared to wait for assistance or have a companion seek and/or provide help. The number of park staff on duty is limited and help may not be immediately available.

Poison oak
Poison oak leaves are red when they first emerge in early spring, and then turn green in late spring and summer.

NPS Photo by Keir Morse

Poison Oak
Poison oak is a common plant in California and at Pinnacles in particular. It is common along most trails. The secret to avoid encountering poison oak is to learn to recognize the plant.

Poison oak can be a shrub, vine, or even a small tree. Its leaves can be red, green, or any color in between. The leaves sometimes have a waxy coating, but this is not always apparent.

The best way to identify poison oak is by the way its leaves are arranged in groups of three. Remember: leaves of three, let it be!

Stinging nettle

Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle is also found in various areas of the Park. Watch for this tall plant in moist areas and along stream edges. It is common at the east entrance to the Balconies Cave and along the trail just below the Bear Gulch Cave.

Touching the plant will cause a burning sensation with all leaf hairs sticking to the skin. Fortunately, the stinging sensation will disappear within an hour or two, unlike poison oak, which lasts for days or even weeks.

A western rattlesnake on a trail at Pinnacles National Park.

NPS Photo by Keir Morse

Several types of snakes are found in the Park; the Pacific rattlesnake is the only poisonous critter of the group. By keeping to trails, avoiding heavy brush and watching where hands and feet are placed in rocky terrain, chances of crossing trails with a rattlesnake are minimized.

If you see a rattlesnake while hiking, treat it as you would any other wild animal. Give it plenty of room and make sure that it has a way to move safely away from you.

Rattlesnake bites are extremely uncommon at Pinnacles. If you do get bitten, seek medical attention from park staff immediately. Please remember that rattlesnakes are protected in the Park.

For information about safety, check with a ranger at the Pinnacles Visitor Center or Bear Gulch Nature Center on the east side of the Park or at the Chaparral Ranger Station on the west side. Additional information may be obtained by calling (831) 389-4485.

Last updated: January 4, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

5000 East Entrance Road
Paicines, CA 95043


831 389-4486
Please call the number above for all park related inquiries. For camping questions contact the Pinnacles Campground at (831) 200-1722. For the park book store, please call (831) 389-4485.

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