Dogs No Dogs
Birding · Cave · Geological Significance · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Starting at the Chaparral parking lot, you head up to the high peaks using the tunnel trail, cross over and down to the Bear Gulch Cave
, visitor center, then follow the creek beds to the Balconies Cave and back to the parking lot. The Tunnel trail increases your chances of spotting condors as well as providing some exciting climbing.
Need to Know
It's a National Park so entrance fees apply. The gate doesn't open till 7:30 and the lot fills up fast. They do have an overflow lot further down the road and a visitor center near the entrance gate. There is a restroom and drinking fountains. Take enough water to at least make it to the Bear Gulch visitor center. There is no food for purchase that I have ever seen. Poison Oak is everywhere and hikers have spotted rattle snakes so stay on the trail. Binoculars are great for viewing condors. It can take a long time to get through the caves, and head lights are important as you need your hands free. High water can also be an issue, so check weather conditions if you're not wearing water proof boots.
Take the High Peaks Trail
then take a left on the Tunnel Trail
, then take a right at the next fork. You'll come to steps carved in the rock and pipe hand rails. You'll squeeze under a ledge and arrive at a prime place to view condors. Continue on to the next peak where you'll find a restroom and you can make a short scramble to the top.
From here, head to the reservoir, keeping to the right at all forks. The entrance to the cave is right when you get to the dam, and it can become very crowded heading down the narrow stairs. Put your headlight on before you enter, and you'll have to squat or crawl in some places. In wet years, you may to step through water or try to rock hop.
A short distance from the caves is the visitor center, restrooms, and drinking fountains. You'll follow the creek bed down to the river bed, then take a left. It's a long, dry run to the Balconies caves. Instead of stairs, you have to climb up the rocks through the cave. It's a short run back to the parking lot from here.
Shared By: Dion Reeves