Pinnacles National Park has a long trail known as the High Peaks Trail that travels across the park. You can hike from the east side to the west side. We knew that our family wasn’t up for such a long hike, but we heard about a tunnel along the Juniper Canyon trail that we wanted to visit. This gave our family a glimpse into the Hike Peaks, and the tunnel was the perfect destination.
We even saw two condors as we hiked up Tunnel Trail in Pinnacles, which is quite steep. There is very little shade between the trailhead and the tunnel, and the switchbacks are quite steep. This trail really isn’t for the faint of heart!
Many people go to Pinnacles National Park to try and see the California condors. A good number of those who do, are fooled by the turkey vultures that are soaring on the up drafts around the pinnacles. It is definitely possible to see California condors (we did), but you have to know what to look for. First, all condors are tagged and have white under their wings. If you see a massive black bird soaring on the thermals, you are likely looking at a turkey vulture. If you see a REALLY massive black bird with white highlights under its wings and tags clipped to the front of its wings, that’s a California condor.
Tunnel Trail Info
Tunnel Trail starts out fairly level following the ravine. There are beautiful trees for the first quarter mile, and we watched the birds flit in their branches. We even saw a few squirrels. Eventually, the trail turns up to the left. That’s when it gets steep. As it traverses back and forth there is little shade and only lizards to keep you company. After a while, you can see the parking lot hundreds of feet below. This is where we stopped in the shade of the rocks to scan for condors.
The trail continues to climb, and then climb some more. Finally, there is a junction. When you reach the junction, you are just about to the tunnel. Take the left trail and continue for about a hundred yards. A man-made tunnel is drilled through the rock for about 100 feet. We made this tunnel our destination at about 1.25 miles into the hike.
There is a lot more to hike in this section of Pinnacles, but that was plenty of climbing for us. The total roundtrip distance to the tunnel was around 2.5 miles and 730 feet elevation gain to the tunnel. If you are a hiking family, then the Tunnel trail along Juniper Canyon trail will be great for you.
For more info about the Juniper Canyon Trail, check out the National Parks site.
We also hiked the Balconies Cave trail from this same trailhead. It was our favorite hike, and much easier. Read about our experience on our post.