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High Peak Loop/Bear Gulch Caves

Pinnacles National Monument

April 12th, 1997

5.8 miles
1500 vertical feet
Total Time: 4:07

Rating: 8/10

Directions: From San Jose, take 101 south to Gilroy. Take Highway 25 south for a little over 40 miles (through Hollister), then turn right toward Pinnacles National Park (east entrance). If you are using a phone or GPS for directions, make sure you are going to the east entrance, as there is no road through the park from to the west entrance. There is a $10 per vehicle fee at this time (2015). If you can, park in the small day use lot at the end of the road. If that is full, park in the much larger lot about a quarter mile from the end of the road.   View Driving Map

Alex, Andy, Angie, Ben, Dave, Jennifer, Joe, Landa, Michelle, Nancy, Rich, Tuan, Wayne, Weihaw, Wilson, and I made the trip down to Pinnacles National Monument, about 45 miles south of Hollister. We then hiked the High Peak Loop and Bear Gulch Caves.

If you ever go to Pinnacles, get there relatively early in the morning. When we got there (between 11am and noon), the main parking lot was full, forcing us to park further into the park. This wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that it forced us to hike 1.2 miles just to get to the start of our main hike.

Pictures don't really do this place justice. Those rock formations behind Michelle are actually several hundred...maybe over a thousand feet behind her.

The views were great throughout the hike. The Pinnacles rock formations are the highlight, but there are also great sweeping views of the surrounding -- undeveloped for miles on end -- area. I regret that my camera won't do the park justice. Someone should make a QuickTime VR movie out of it. =)

We started our hike by going up Condor Gulch Trail -- 1.7 miles steadily uphill, almost to the top. We then hiked along High Peaks Trail. Parts of it required us to inch our way forward on narrow trails with handrails. Then it was downhill to the Bear Gulch Reservoir -- a small, peaceful, rock-walled reservoir where we took a brief break before heading into the caves. There are some incredibly tight squeezes in the cave, and one place where I didn't manage to avoid bumping my head. But it was fun. I'd never hiked in a cave like that before -- one that requires flashlights and contorting my body just to get to the other side.

My favorite picture from the Pinnacles. This is a picture of Angie and Dave, taken from the top of the Pinnacles.

Here's a picture of most of us resting at the top, taken by Angie from where she is in the previous picture.

The reservoir above Bear Gulch Caves.

Rock formations as seen from near the cave entrance. Those are rock climbers on top of one of the rocks.

In general, the hike is a great place to go for fantastic views of nature. The caves are a nice little diversion at the end. And one other good thing (for hikers, anyway) -- no mountain bikers allowed.

Most of us, after a successful hike. This is actually the bridge where we first started our hike, 4 hours before this picture was taken.

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