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Bear Gulch Cave Trail

Intermediate

Trail

0.2 mile 0.4 kilometer point to point
73% Runnable
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 177' 54 m
Descent: -9' -3 m
High: 1,625' 495 m
Low: 1,448' 441 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 15% (9°)
Max Grade: 20% (11°)

Dogs

Unknown
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Trail shared by QuinTCM TCM

An excellent example of a talus cave with soaring ceilings and tight squeezes.

QuinTCM TCM

Features 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!

Description

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.

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Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 9 votes

#218

Overall
  5.0 from 9 votes
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Trail Rankings

#25

in California

#218

Overall
44 Views Last Month
867 Since May 22, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

The monolith.
May 26, 2015 near Soledad, CA
Pinnacles above Bear Gulch Reservoir
Oct 14, 2017 near Soledad, CA
Heading down into the cave.
Feb 2, 2016 near Soledad, CA
Heading underground to explore the cave.
Feb 2, 2016 near Soledad, CA
Though you'll have to navigate tight clearances, Bear Gulch Cave provides both a respite from the sweltering heat and the unique opportunity to explore a talus cave.
Aug 9, 2018 near Soledad, CA
Heading down the staircase.
May 26, 2015 near Soledad, CA

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