Arrowhead Pinnacles Hike

Lake Arrowhead Pinnacles Trail Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Hike Video
  • Arrowhead Pinnacles Trail Maps
  • How to Get to the Arrowhead Pinnacles Trail
Distance4 miles (6.4 km)
Hike Time2:30 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,000 feet (305m)
Highest Elevation5,737 feet (1749m)
Fees & PermitsParking Pass
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park WebsiteSan Bernardino National Forest
Park Phone909-382-2600
Stay In Touch - - -

Feeling more like Joshua Tree than Lake Arrowhead, this short but tough hike to the summit of The Pinnacles rewards you with a stone perch where you can soak in 360-degree views from the mountains to the Mojave. The hike ascends through a granite boulder field to a small plateau, then after a last mild scramble to the boulder-pile summit, you reach The Pinnacles peak. It’s a fun hike that’s a bit off the beaten path; don’t be surprised if you have the whole place to yourself.

As a bonus, the Pinnacles peak is part of the Sierra Club 100 Peaks (SoCal) list.

How To Get to the Lake Arrowhead Pinnacles Trail

The trailhead is in the Lake Arrowhead area, on the east side where the mountains transition to the desert. Getting to the trailhead is kind of tricky on paper but easy when you get there. The official trailhead is right by the Arrowhead Fish & Game Conservation Club (a gun club and shooting range). But the parking area is a minute or two before you reach the official trailhead on your left. When you’re about 3-4 minutes out from the destination on your GPS, keep an eye open on the left for the trail sign and parking area.

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Use this address in Google Maps to get to the official start:

Pinnacles Trail 3W16, CA-173, Hesperia, CA 92345

The address for the parking area isn’t on Google Maps, but you can use the geo coordinates:

34°17’39.3″N 117°12’47.6″W
34.294244, -117.213207

There are no bathrooms at the trailhead.

Since you’re in San Bernardino National Forest, you need a parks pass or Adventure Pass in your window when you park.

CA-173 can close when there’s a lot of snow and ice, check the conditions here if in doubt.

Deciding Where To Start the Hike

Why do I have two trailheads? Well, if you use the official trailhead, you need to walk down the road from the parking area. It’s a short walk and not a big deal. Here’s what the official trailhead looks, which is next to the fence of the gun club.

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The official start of the trail is by the gun club fence. The Forest Service sign is no longer there (thanks to Theodore V.).

I choose to start the hike in the parking area, which is the way I’ve listed in the directions that follow. I like it better because I avoid the walk along the road and avoid getting closer to any shooting that could be happening on the gun club range. The gun range can get loud and is not my cup of tea when hiking.

You can certainly walk to the official trailhead and do the hike. I’ll show you where you join the hike in the directions below.

Gear For the Hike

There is almost no shade on this hike, so plenty of water is a must. Otherwise you can probably get away with fitness gear, but I opt for my regular hiking kit here. There is a bit of boulder scrambling, so if you hike with trekking poles, make sure you can attach them to your pack when you need both hands to climb.

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La Sportiva Spire

I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
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Osprey Talon

On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Lake Arrowhead Pinnacles Trail Maps

As I mention in my directions below, there are a lot of side trails and splits. The area is popular with rock climbers and there are trails to various climbing spots. In fact, it’s supposed to be one of the best climbing spots in the LA area, similar to Joshua Tree. So if that’s your bag, you can climb too. But for the hike, I’d recommend referring to the GPX file if you come to a split and you’re in doubt.

Click To View Map

Lake Arrowhead Pinnacles Trail Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.

Arrowhead Pinnacles Elevation Profile

Arrowhead Pinnacles Hike Elevation

Arrowhead Pinnacles 3D Map

Arrowhead Pinnacles Hike 3d Map

Lake Arrowhead Pinnacles Hike Directions

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Video Directions

FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.

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Turn by Turn Directions

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There’s limited parking at the trailhead but it’s usually pretty empty. Look for the big forest service sign. This is the “unofficial trailhead” that I mentioned earlier.
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Head through the gate at the parking area and follow the trail through the meadow.
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The peak you see in the distance isn’t the Pinnacles, but rather an unnamed 5078 ft peak before it. You have another 700 feet to climb past the peak to get to the summit.
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The beginning of the unofficial trail can be confusing. There are a lot of trails that cut across this little hill to get to the main trail. Most of the trails you see will bring you to the main trail. But follow these directions and you’ll be golden.
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Head over the wash and up the trail. You can also follow the wash up and over but it can get overgrown.
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Head around the boulders to the ridge.
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As you crest the east side of the hill, the main trail will be visible ahead. Head towards it on the narrower trail.
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Head left on the Pinnacles Trail.If you came from the gun club trailhead, you’ll be on that trail already.
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There are some small stream crossings. Keep straight on the trail.
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The trail starts to slope upwards.
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Some sections become steep as you keep hiking.
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Keep hiking uphill.
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After you crest the last ridge, make the hard right down the steep hill. The post marks the spot.
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Head up the hill after the short descent.
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The trail mellows out before going up again, approaching the unnamed peak that’s been looming in front of you from the start.
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This next section makes its way through the boulders and can get tricky. Look for cairns to mark the way.
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Where there are no cairns, you can always look for well-worn dirt after you cross rocks and boulders.
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Keep picking your way upwards through the boulders and manzanita.
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After you gain a small ridge, you’ll see a trail marker confirming that you’re in the right place.
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The next stretch heads through a boulder field. There’s some light scrambling as the trail goes up and over boulders.
Arrowhead Pinnacles Hike Directions 25
Look for the cairns to confirm you’re in the right place.
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After the boulder section, the trail becomes a trail again. You’re rewarded with a trail marker.
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This part can get tricky. Shortly after the last trail marker you’ll round a bend and hit an intersection. Make the counter-intuitive hard right down the steep hill.
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Climb up from the last turn to the trail marker.
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When you reach the marker, head straight.
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Don’t forget to turn around and soak in the views. The fire damage you see on the upper slopes is from the 2016 Pilot fire which didn’t get too big but did close the PCT for a while.
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The trail mellows out and is relatively easy to follow with cairns confirming you’re in the right place.
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Head up to the plateau near the summit.
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Getting close! Ahead of you is The Pinnacles. You’ll be climbing to the top of that hill of boulders soon.
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Follow the markers for the trail. There are a ton of side trail splits to rock climbing spots. In general you’re heading toward the huge pile of rocks ahead of you.
Arrowhead Pinnacles Hike Directions 36
This section of the trail also has cairns marking the way (like in the lower right-hand corner of this shot).
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A marker shows you the start of the last stretch to the summit, which involves a bit of scrambling. Follow the trail and cairns.
Arrowhead Pinnacles Hike Directions 38
There are a decent amount of cairns on this stretch. If you don’t see any, try looking around for other routes. If you think you’re in the wrong spot, go down and go back up.
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This was the steepest section that you have to pull yourself up on. I needed both hands but it’s doable. Nothing over 3 or 4 feet.
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Eventually you get to this little nest at the summit. You made it!
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Ignore the graffiti and climb up on the rocks around the edge for the views.
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There are great views east into the Mojave.
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And west to Silverwood Lake and Mt Baldy.
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There’s also a register in a can floating around in the flat area.
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That’s the hike! From here just head back down the way you came.
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A top on descending: look for the cairns on the boulder section to lead the way.
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The views on the descent aren’t too shabby either.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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