Caves, Condors, Camping

You’re gonna need a flashlight for this hike, and not because it’s happening at night. Check out a…

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You’re gonna need a flashlight for this hike, and not because it’s happening at night. Check out a truly dark part of the park by visiting Bear Gulch Cave in Pinnacles National Park. It’s home to a colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats, and the lower part of the cave can be explored with relative ease.

From the Bear Gulch Nature Center, start on the Moses Spring Trail and within a mile reach the caves. The first section is a deep, narrow gorge suitable for most explorers.

True spelunkers can continue into the upper half of the cave (sometimes closed due to bat activity), where crouching and negotiating tight squeezes is part of the fun.

Or just skip that section by taking the marked lead-out path. Either way, you’ll pop out at Bear Gulch Reservoir.

Turn around and return the way you came (through the cave again) for a short 2-mile adventure, or do a 5.5-mile tour and keep going to the iconic High Peaks—massive golden-orange rock monoliths rising from the foothills, and home to the endangered California condor.

Scout Peak is one of their most popular hangouts, and the bench near the top of the climb is a great place for spotting one.

Continue through the heart of Pinnacles to the exciting “steep and narrow” section. Hold on to the handrails! The next few minutes are spent climbing up and down steps carved into the rocks, with rewarding views of the park. Descend via Condor Gulch Trail.

CAMP: The eastern side of Pinnacles National Park offers some of the best access to the highlights. The only option for accommodation in this neck of the woods is Pinnacles Campground, nestled in the foothills. Campsites are basic and do the trick. Rangers sometimes lead weekend night programs at the amphitheater.

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