South Chalone Peak is the second highest point in Pinnacles National Monument. A published 1.6 miles southeast of North Chalone Peak, and only 35 feet shorter, it blocks views to the south from its taller cousin and claims the title of unobstructed scenic view from the southern end of the Gabilan Range.
The trailhead for South Chalone Peak begins mere feet past the second gate on the North Chalone Peak trail (located at 36° 26.912N, 121° 11.814W, 3210 feet). The trail leads in a short descent off to the right from the main trail, marked only by a single barbed wire fence post. The path continues to descend into the saddle between the two peaks. The low point of the saddle crossing is at 36° 26.410N, 121° 11.560W and only 2595 feet. A nice little 700 foot descent; unfortunately you need to take it all back!
The path leads to climber's left of the apparent South Chalone high point, and wraps around the mountain along a route of equivalent steepness to the final section of the North Chalone route. Eventually the path climbs to the top of a peak behind the first. GPS measurements from the rocks at this high point (36° 26.152N, 121° 10.964W) showed it was 3230 feet. The trail continued to the south but was descending, and there was no further visible high point to the south. From the rock area, the first of two peaks appeared higher; backtracking along the trail and climbing up the hillside (class 2 scramble) and bushwhacking some trees led to a clearing at 3261 feet. This appears to be the true summit. No box, no USGS marker, and no US Park Service "Welcome to South Chalone Peak" sign. Oh well :)
No special permits; entry into Pinnacles is $5 for a 7 day pass.
When To Climb
Like North Chalone, this mountain could be climbed year-round. Mid-October still sported temperatures in the high 80's; later autumn or spring would probably be optimal. Deeper summer would be brutal.
See the NOAA weather observation page for current and recent conditions.
Pinnacles is a day-use only park, no overnight camping or hiking is allowed. Hours are from 7:30 am until 8:00 pm.
For information on nearby private campgrounds, please see the official Pinnacle campground page.
Most important gear --- lots of water. There is no water available above the Bear Gulch Reservoir.