bear gulch caves trail
Pinnacles national park, CA
bear gulch caves trail
Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip (loop)
Elevation Gain: 396 feet
Seasonality: Open mostly year round, but check current park conditions for cave closures due to water, rock fall, and bats.
Trailhead: At the Bear Gulch Day Use Area overflow parking lot, you will want to start on the Moses Spring Trailhead, which allows you to access the Bear Gulch Cave Trail.
Parking: There are three areas where you can park on the East side of the park, but if you arrive after 10 a.m. you will most likely be parking at the Pinnacles Visitor Center near the entrance and taking a shuttle to the day use areas. If you’re lucky, you may be able to park at the Bear Gulch Day Use area, or in the overflow parking two tenths of a mile west.
Facilities: Flush toilets and potable water are available at the Pinnacles Visitor Center, Bear Gulch Day Use area, and the overflow parking lot.
The Bear Gulch Cave Trail is one you don’t want to miss at Pinnacles National Park. The Bear Gulch Caves are talus caves (caves that are formed when boulders tumble into a gorge and create a cave ceiling, not the traditional caves that go into the sides of mountains), and you are able to walk through a long stretch of them. At certain points it is completely pitch black, so be sure to have your headlamp or flashlight out. After climbing through two main caves, you will reach a large staircase that leads to the Bear Gulch Reservoir, a nice spot to have a picnic lunch. You can return using the same route, although it is not recommended because you will be going against the flow of traffic, or you can get onto the Rim Trail and turn right onto the High Peaks Trail to get back to where you started.
If you are not interested in going through the Bear Gulch Caves, you can get to the Bear Gulch Reservoir by following the Moses Spring Trail the whole way, which gives you an exclusive view of Moses Spring that you won’t see from the Caves trail.
Trip Planner Details:
Please note that you are driving to the East Pinnacles Park Entrance, not the West Pinnacles Park Entrance. The entrances do not connect to each other.
Unlike the drive to the West side of the park, the drive to the East Entrance is scenic and peaceful. After you pass through Hollister, there are a few small localities that you will pass if you need food or gas.
Once you arrive at the park, the visitor center offers a selection of snacks and water along with flush toilet facilities.This trail is a great trail to start with if you want to have a picnic lunch at the Bear Gulch Reservoir.
There is a park entrance fee of $25 to enter Pinnacles National Park. For more information about what else you can do in the park, visit the Pinnacles National Park website.
When You Do Your Research:
Know that there are many ways to get to the Bear Gulch Reservoir, so verbiage online may be confusing. There are four main trails that form a loop, so signage in the park may get confusing. You start on the Moses Spring Trail which has a fork, one side goes to Moses Spring and Bear Gulch Caves, and the other goes to the High Peaks Trail. The second fork in the trail allows you to pick one side that goes to Moses Spring or the other side that goes to Bear Gulch Caves. Both will lead you to the Bear Gulch Reservoir. To return back to the trailhead, you will take the Rim Trail which meets up with the High Peaks Trail and takes you back to the Bear Gulch overflow parking lot where you started.
Tips From One Who Hiked It:
This is the best cave trail in Pinnacles National Park, but make sure you check cave conditions, since rangers close down these caves when they are full of water, there is extra rock fall, or during bat pupping season.