“An excellent example of a talus cave with soaring ceilings and tight squeezes.
— QuinTCM TCM
Cave · River/Creek · Waterfall · Wildlife
Entire cave is closed mid-May through mid-July to protect a colony of roosting Townsend's big-eared bats. The lower half of the cave is usually open mid-July through mid-May. The entire cave is only open in March and October for at least one week and maybe four weeks in each of those months.
Check for raptor closures before attempting any off-trail running or climbing.
Bring a headlamp!
From the Moses Spring Trail
, head directly south at the junction marked by a sign and metal gate. Before reaching the cave, the trail moves along the bottom of Bear Gulch where it comes to a metal walkway that passes over a creek and then squeezes between a split rock. Shortly following this begins the cave. Move around a large rock and through the metal gate and begin ascending Bear Gulch Cave
. The cave includes stairways protected by railings, small waterfalls, scrambling, tight squeezes, and metal walkways. If only half of the cave is open, which is typically the case, an exit over a metal walkway will be to the west, which will lead directly to the Moses Spring Trail
. Follow the Moses Spring Trail
to either Bear Gulch Reservoir to the south or the parking area to the north.
If the full cave is open, immediately before the exit to Moses Spring Trail
, a narrow staircase within the cave leads to another metal gate. Pass through the metal gate and follow the trail through the rest of the cave. This part of the cave is extremely dark and requires crossing over and through the stream that runs through the cave. Look for white arrows on the cave walls that mark the route. Continue following the arrows until the trail eventually emerges into light and again joins the Moses Spring Trail
right beneath the stairs heading up to Bear Gulch Reservoir.
Flora & Fauna
Bear Gulch Cave
is home to a colony of Townsend's big-eared bats.
Pinnacles is currently one of five release sites for California Condors. The park hosts more than thirty of these scavengers. These birds are best seen in the higher regions of the park and can also often be seen on a hill behind the campsites. Pinnacles is also home to many species of raptors and other birds and is an excellent area for birding.
Wildflowers like Larkspur, California buckeye, Elegant clarkia, California buckwheat, Mariposa lily, Bush poppy, Gray mule-ears, Indian Warrior, California poppy and many others are abundant in spring.
Look for manzanita shrubs interspersed among patches of chaparral.
The park is also home to around 300 different species of lichens, which are easily visible on the many rock formations they color.