Reservoir at Bear Gulch Trail, Pinnacles National Park, Paicines, CA
September 26th, National Public Lands Day, one of 9 days every year that all national parks are free for everyone. Being the extreme savings kind of people that we are, Lynn and I debated between Pinnacles and Yosemite for which park to spend our day at. Not wanting to drive forever, wait in long lines, and not get to see the whole park, we decided to go to Pinnacles. With Pulse going there next month for their fall retreat (that we unfortunately cannot attend) we decided to scope out the landscape ahead of time! Here is our scouting report for Pinnacles National Park!
Our day started with us arriving at 9:30 AM at a buzzing visitor center. We picked up our map and got our trail recommendations. We would be exploring two major cave trails. The Bear Gulch trail and the Old Pinnacles trail. Let’s start with the easier of the two, Bear Gulch.
Bear Gulch is a very short and easy trail. It starts with an slightly uphill path through a few campgrounds from the day use parking lot. Once on the trail proper, it flattens out as you leave the shaded tree filled groves and enter the valley of stone giants. Giant boulders dominate the landscape as you walk through some small tunnels on the way to the Bear Gulch cave system.
Bear Gulch Caves
This cave system is home to a small colony of bats, if you don't like bats, don’t shine your flashlight up. They sleep during the day so you will be fine. The cave has some ambient light but I still recommend a flashlight. The caves at Pinnacles, while well maintained, are primordial. You will be climbing over rocks, squeezing through crevices, and ducking away from the low hanging rocks. Plus, as an added bonus, the stone stairs carved into the cave system look like they're right out of Mordor! My precioussss...anyways...the end of this short two mile trail is a manmade reservoir. This is a very beautiful lake and a great place for lunch and photography. Hike back the way you came for a cooler time or take the Rim trail back to the trailhead for new sights.
Old Pinnacles trail is a relatively flat trail with an absolutely amazing cave system and cliffside view. About seven to seven and a half miles round trip (depending on which turnout you take) this hike is serious business. When we set out on the trail, temperatures had risen to about 87 degrees.
Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies Cave
By the time we reached the cave, 97 degrees. The cave was cool and a very welcome respite. But our hopes would be dashed as we finished the last mile of the hike in nearly 100 degree weather. The views were gorgeous but the heat was unbearable. Lynn and I saw that were was a water refill station less than a mile past the cave, otherwise, the car was two and half miles behind us.
We dredged on. As we left the coolness of the cave and the surrounding tree canopy, we were stuck on a path with no shade, very low water supplies and 100 degree heat beating down on us. Lynn took short breaks in every patch of shade she could find, as she was basically sprinting ahead of me in hopes of finding the end of the path. During one of our breaks, I gave her the last of my water without her knowing it was the last I had. We finally reached our destination around 1pm and took a very long break to cool down. This trail is absolutely stunning but with extreme heat and too little water, it can be very difficult.
Balconies Cave to Chaparral Parking Lot
So Pulsars, this section is for you. Here are our recommendations!
What to bring!
This will be a great place to pray and connect with God. Parts of the park are really secluded and peaceful. We hope you have a powerful and refreshing weekend at retreat.
That’s all for today, hope you all enjoyed the post, and until next time, Happy Spelunking!
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