Like WTF is this place?!? Let me break it down real quick. It became a National Park in 2013 (thanks Obama) and is basically a magical, massive rock garden filled with towering spires, endangered species just casually floating around, and bonus caves, just to name a few attractions. Volcanoes man, tectonic plates and shit, Mother Nature is such a badass!
Oddly enough I grew up in a town wayyyy closer to this awesome sauce then where I live today and yet I had never visited it until this week! And you may think why would I not be all up in here, all the time? Good question, my friend. Well it had something to do with having no idea how awesome this place is, literally no one I knew ever talked about it, except maybe in brief passing and not in the excited tones I would use today. And it was heavily assumed, by many, that it was just some hot ass wilderness where the endangered California Condor lived so why would you want to go there? So, so wrong. Well in most ways, as I do agree that you should not go during the super hot, dry ass summer.
So when I finally got some sense and saw pictures of this place I was like OMG I have got to go here ASAP! So I talked my hiking buddy Jen into meeting at my house at 6am for a 2 1/2 hour car ride to MAGIC. The drive down was wicked pretty due to all the rainfall in California this year. It was overcast and sprinkling a little today as well. We hit the park around 8:30am and we were climbing up under cloudy skies by 8:45. We chose the Bear Gulch Trail to the High Peaks Trail for maximum Condor and rock spire viewing pleasure. The shifting light made things super epic and we stopped to take a million pictures every few minutes as the light kept shifting and revealing other pieces of the mountain and rocks.
It was cold and windy at the top and we were super stoked whenever patches of warm sun would hit us. As we climbed higher the views just got better and the massive size of the rocks revealed more fully (pictures can not do this justice btw) I brought my giant binoculars to scan the skies and rocks hoping for a glimpse of a Condor. We could see a bunch of Turkey Vultures circling the rocks up above us, riding the thermals.
Soon we hit the top and got our first glimpse of a Condor! These birds are HUGE, they weigh up to 20lbs with a wing span of 9 1/2 feet, danggggg! It was so cool to see a few swooping in and out of their huge rock homes. I was very sad that I only had my phone for pictures so sorry they are tiny bird specks but you will just need to go see them for yourself.
We rounded a bend and climbed up some sketchy steps cut into the rock with a bit of railing on the plummet to your death side. People scared of heights should definitely not take this side route. We had to shimmy under the huge rock overhangs with just a few feet to the edge but the views from here are SO AMAZING! We could watch the birds soar and also spied a few roosting on the rock ledges.
We had a quick snack in a less windy and exposed spot before heading down the other side of the loop to end our day. We cruised down the switchbacks enjoying some different views on the other side of the high peaks and watched a few climbers make their way up Tourist Trap rock (that’s really its name)
We got back to the car around 12pm and both exclaimed how awesome that was and that we need a longer day to come explore more so we can check out the caves next time! This park is super awesome and I highly recommend a visit and camping (the camping area looked rad) I think you could hit all of the main attractions in two to three days, depending on your hiking aspirations, so go get you some!