I love the Sierra Nevadas, just about every inch of them. This August, I signed up for Pursuit 2018 at Bear Valley, and was excited to stop by one of my favorite little secret spots on the drive up: Natural Bridge Caverns. These beautiful caves are located between Murphys and Columbia along Parrots Ferry Road. To get here, you just turn south on Parrots Ferry from Highway 4, and proceed about 3.5 miles down the road.
The trail-head marker on Parrot Ferry Road. Photo by Lisette
Park at the sign for the Natural Bridge on the right of the road, and if this lot is full you can drive just a bit further down the road and park on the shoulder. Both areas have paths that join to guide you downhill to the creek. The side with the sign, however, has a bathroom and slightly more room for parking (though it fills up fast on weekends).
The plaque down the trail by the creek. Photo by Lisette
Once you park, make your way downhill. About 20 minutes of light downhill hiking (with stairs built in at the steep portions) you will come to the creek and the main entrance to the caves.This wide, low entrance is where you will see most people hanging out and getting their feet wet.
Looking back towards the mouth of the cave. Photo by Lisette
Towards the back of the cave, things get a little more exciting. The cavern narrows and expands upwards, with incredible rock formations and stalactites above you. You will need to swim through this portion to exit the far side of the cave upstream. The water is a bit cold, but the scenery is well worth a bit of a chill.
Inside the cavern. Photo by Lisette
I highly recommend stopping in this wonderful (free) little swimming hole anytime you’re in the region.