Pinnacles Loop Trail, featuring a hidden valley of brilliant fiery red pinnacle rock formations, is a great initial exposure to the wonders of Valley of Fire State Park.
The trailhead is located across from the parking area for Atlatl Rock just beyond the West entrance of Valley of Fire State Park and beyond the Beehive rocks. You might miss the trailhead if you’re not looking closely. The trail begins along a wash traversing the open desert. At first there are abundant sign posts pointing the way. You can always see the next post for the first couple miles.
I got into running along the wash and did not notice that the last post must have pointed to the right towards a valley of pinnacle-shaped rocks. Instead, I continued up another mile or so to where the wash dead-ended at a cliff. However, this was not a bad thing because it gave me the opportunity to descend again to the pinnacles viewing them from above. In addition, you can more clearly see the large hill feature beyond the pinnacles and gain a frame of reference that ties the loop trail together. The loop actually circles that massive hill, passing through the pinnacles on one side and beginning and ending at Atlatl Rock and Arch Rock on the other. It’s good to retain this large perspective because the trail often appears and disappears, and the sign posts seem to disappear at times along with the trail!
Entering the pinnacles is like entering another world. A balancing rock stands out, apparently defying the laws of gravity. I became obsessed with this rock as you can see in the video on this page, trying to figure out how it could possibly remain on its perch.
In all, the Pinnacles Loop Trail is a welcome change from the far shorter trails. It was an opportunity to warm up on this 30 degree Winter morning with a strong windchill factor bringing the temperature down to 20 degrees, after the colder, more sedentary experience of viewing the Beehives, Petrified Logs Western Loop and Atlatl Rock!