From Chaparral Ranger Station, follow Juniper Canyon Trail (1.2 miles) → left on Tunnel Trail (0.6 miles) → left on High Peaks Trail (0.6 miles) → right on Condor Gulch Trail (1.7 miles) to reach Bear Gulch Day Use Area. Follow Bear Gulch Trail (0.5 miles) → Bear Gulch Caves Trail (0.7 miles) to reach Bear Gulch Reservoir via Bear Gulch Caves. Follow Rim Trail (0.4 miles) → left on High Peaks Trail (2.2 miles) → left on Tunnel Trail (0.6 miles) → right on Juniper Canyon Trail (1.2 miles) to return to Chaparral Ranger Station.
Hiking through Caves: At Pinnacles, there are two 'cave trails' (Balconies Cave Trail and Bear Gulch Cave Trail) that require flashlight. This hike goes through only one of these saves: Bear Gulch Cave. The caves are open only in select months, so check Cave Status. Caves are closed for the protection of Townsend's big ear bats that reside in them. Caves are open for a limited period: twice an year for at least one week and up to four weeks each March and October, depending on the presence of the colony of bats.
I visited both caves in March 2010 — there was about 5 to 12 inches of water in some section of Bear Gulch Cave. I was able to hop on stones most of the time but there were some portions where my feet got wet. Rubber slippers would be handy. The park website warns that sometimes there is knee-deep water inside the caves. So be prepared.
From the San Francisco Bay Area: Take Hwy 101 south to the town of Soledad, and then take Hwy 146 east. Take care as you're driving through town; the highway takes a few turns. Follow Hwy 146 for 14 miles into Pinnacles National Monument.
From the South: Take Hwy 101 North to the town of Soledad, and then take Hwy 146 east. Take care as you're driving through town; the highway takes a few turns. Follow Hwy 146 for 14 miles into Pinnacles National Monument.
Parking Fees: $5 per vehicle (last visited: March 2010)