Bear Gulch Caves, High Peaks from Old Pinnacles Trailhead
10.1 miles     2600 ft
25 Oct 2009
Summary

Awesome hike in Pinnacles going through a cave and High Peaks, that offer panoramic valley views.

Location: Pinnacles National Monument

Elevation Profile
Trip Planning

Trail Maps

» Official Trail Map: Nice map showing all hiking trails.

» Old trailmap preserved by U Texas Library: Good map, very similar to the official trail map. This one shows creeks more prominently.

Route
From Old Pinnacles Trailhead, follow High Peaks Trail (2.0 miles) → left on Condor Gulch Trail (1.7 miles) to reach Bear Gulch Day Use Area. Follow Bear Gulch Trail (0.5 miles) → Bear Gulch Cave Trail (0.7 miles) to reach Bear Gulch Reservoir. Follow Rim Trail (0.4 miles) → left on High Peaks Trail (4.8 miles) to return to trailhead.

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.

Trailhead

Location: 2.9 miles from East Entrance of Pinnacles National Monument . No street address. Parking area is visible in Google Maps if you zoom in sufficiently.

Directions:

1) To Eastern Entrance of Pinnacles (borrowed from Pinnacles Official Website):

From the San Francisco Bay Area: Take Hwy 101 south through the city of Gilroy to Hwy 25 south. On Hwy 25, go through the town of Hollister and continue about 30 miles to Hwy 146. Turn right on Hwy 146, then turn left into the Pinnacles Campground to check in at Pinnacles Visitor Center. From the campground, the Bear Gulch Area is 3.5 miles further into the park along Hwy 146.

From the South: Take Hwy 101 North to the town of King City. Exit at 1st Street. Turn right toward King City. Continue straight until 1st St turns into Bitterwater Rd (Monterey County G13). Follow Bitterwater Rd until it intersects Hwy 25. Turn left on Hwy 25 (North) and follow for ~15 miles. Turn left onto Hwy 146 to enter the monument. Turn left into the Pinnacles Campground and check in at Pinnacles Visitor Center. The Bear Gulch Area is 3.5 miles further into the park along Hwy. 146.

2) From Eastern Entrance to Bear Gulch Day Use Area: Continue driving along CA-146 for 1.8 miles, then turn left onto a side road. Drive for 1.1 miles to reach Bear Gulch Day Use Area.

Google Maps:

Parking Fees: $5 per vehicle (last visited: October 2009)

Capacity: Over 30 cars may be parked here. On busy days, the park runs a shuttle service from the eastern entrance to various trail heads.

Latitude: 36.481622     Longitude: -121.181114

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