Grand Central Circuit

Bring your flashlight, binoculars, and hiking boots for the Pinnacles grand tour, a 5.5-mile hike that begins at…

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Bring your flashlight, binoculars, and hiking boots for the Pinnacles grand tour, a 5.5-mile hike that begins at the Bear Gulch visitor center. Start on the Moses Spring Trail and within a mile reach one of the highlights of the park, Bear Gulch Cave. The first section is a deep, narrow gorge suitable for most explorers. True spelunkers can continue into the upper half of the cave where crouching and negotiating tight squeezes is part of the fun. Or just skip that section by taking the marked lead-out path. Either way you’ll pop out at Bear Gulch Reservoir and make your way to Pinnacles’ iconic High Peaks: massive golden-orange rock monoliths rising from the rolling green foothills. These volcanic formations are home to the endangered California Condor. Scout Peak is a favorite condor hangout, and a bench near the top of the climb is a great place for trying to spot this elusive scavenger. Continue through the heart of Pinnacles to the most exciting part of the hike, the “steep-and-narrow” section. Hold on to the handrails! The next few minutes are spent climbing up and down steps carved into the rocks, which rewards with expansive views of the park. Descend via the Condor Gulch Trail.

TIP: California Condors are the Cadillacs of the sky. With their 9-and-a-half-foot wingspans, they steadily cruise the thermals without rocking back and forth like their look-a-like relative, the turkey vulture.

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