The path to Bear Gulch Cave is easily the most popular hike in Pinnacles National Park. The cave (caves, actually) formed long ago when huge boulders slowly worked their way down from the walls above and wedged atop a narrow gulch.
Reach the cave via Moses Spring Trail, a nature trail that introduces the park’s major ecological communities—Foothill Woodland, Riparian, Chaparral and Rock and Scree.
The possibilities for hikers to see any, some, or all of the Bear Gulch Cave is linked to park service management policies having to do with special residents of the caves—a colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats. When the bats are not using the cave for hibernation or pupping, some access to the cave is permitted.
A gate about halfway into the cave protects the bat’s habitat. A bypass trail allows hikers to enter the cave and then continue on to the reservoir without having to double back.
Most visitors begin this hike from the Bear Gulch Visitor Center and continue up to the reservoir, a 2-mile round trip walk.
The hike: Begin travel in oak woodland, soon passing a junction with High Peaks Trail. Walk through a short tunnel, constructed in the late 1930s by those master trail-builders, the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Moses Spring Trail leads to the cave. After passage through and around the caves, you’ll rejoin the trail.
Enlivening Bear Gulch is Moses Spring, a seep in the rock. Water trickling down from above into Fern Chamber nourishes lush chain ferns.
Continue to Bear Gulch Reservoir, a handsome rock-rimmed lakelet. Pull up a boulder and sit down while admiring the reflections of the wondrous stone statuary in the water.