The Pinnacles

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View of the San Gabriels from the Pinnacles summit
Bong Rock on the Pinnacles Trail

The Pinnacles

      • Location:  Western San Bernardino Mountains north of Lake Arrowhead.  From I-210 in San Bernardino, take Highway 18 (Waterman Ave. exit) and go north for 14.2 miles.   Turn left on Lake Gregory Drive and make an immediate right on Highway 189.  Go a total of 2.7 miles on 189, through the town of Twin Peaks, and turn left on Grass Valley Road.  (There’s a gas station at the intersection).  This intersection can be a little tricky, so be careful.  Go a total of 4.2 miles on Grass Valley Road (at 1.9 miles, look for a sharp left turn; if you stay straight, you’ll end up on Peninsula Drive.)  Grass Valley Road dead-ends at Highway 173.  Turn left and drive a mile to the signed Pinnacles trail head, on the left side of the road.  There is minimal parking available right next to the entrance of the shooting range; you can also park on the shoulder on the opposite side of the road.  A United States Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking. Click here to purchase.  The GPS coordinates are N 34 17.782, W 117 12.678.
      • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Arrowhead Ranger Station
      • Distance: 3.8 miles
      • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
      • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (terrain, steepness, navigation, elevation gain)
      • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
      • Best season: November – June
      • USGS topo map: Lake Arrowhead
      • Recommended gear: sun hat; insect repellentsunblock
      • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
      • More information: here; Everytrail report here
      • Rating: 8

This is one of the more interesting and scenic hikes in the western San Bernardino Mountains. It’s well known among rock climbers for its unusual formations, similar to those at Joshua Tree. It also makes a good, challenging day hike with some great visual rewards. The challenges include some rock scrambling and navigation (look for the green sign posts to help out, and several trail ducks along the way). The summit’s coordinates are N 34 18.443, W 117 13.689. Though the area’s hot during the summer, the hike is short enough that it can be done with good preparation.

Don’t be put off that the hike starts next to a shooting range. You begin by following the fence on the south side of the range, but soon the trail bends to the left and heads away. You’l still hear gunshots, but they’re less of a distraction.

The first bit of the hike is deceptively easy. You make your way through a jumble of granite boulders with a few pines and manzanitas (although not enough to provide any real shade) and you cross a couple of washes. You begin a moderate climb, getting nice views of the western San Bernardinos. At 0.9 miles, you enter another wash and take a sharp right turn. Stay right as a false trail branches off, and you begin an ascent up the side of a canyon, first on the right, then left, side. You’ll pass by a cave-like opening created by several boulders on top of each other, and then you begin a steep climb during which you will be using your hands as well as your feet. (Be careful of snakes). The climbing isn’t technical, and there are plenty of handholds, but obviously caution should be taken.

After some climbing, you dip down to another wash, cross it, and make another ascent, finally arriving at a saddle (1.7 miles). This is where you can see Bong Rock, one of the landmarks of the trip. The tall, column-like rock is a hot destination for rock climbers. Passing by it, you’ll get your first look at the Pinnacles, a rounded summit straight ahead. You descend briefly, climb over a fallen tree trunk and continue toward the summit. The trail starts to rise steeply, and as you get closer to the top, you’ll be doing some more climbing. As before, there are plenty of handholds, and you can wedge yourself between some of the rocks for leverage, but still, caution is in order. (Young kids should be supervised).

There are several large boulders on the summit, and a register in a metal box. You can climb to any one of the rocks and sit for a while, enjoying the view. To the west, you get a nice look at Silverwood Lake and the eastern San Gabriels, including Baldy and Cucamonga Peak. To the north and west, you see the high desert terrain of the western San Bernardinos. The south view includes Old Saddleback in Orange County.

Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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