Millerton Lake Caves (Updated)

Update:  Found the caves!  They aren’t too hard to find just as long as you are headed in the right direction on the right side of the river.  Here is how you get there from Smalley Rd. Follow the road down past the gate where the power house is.  When the road starts to switchback  to the right take the dirt road that forks off straight ahead that ends in what appears to be a parking lot.  From there you’ll look up the mountain away from the river and see a barbed-wire fence that you’ll have to pass through.  Stay on that trail and follow it up until you get to a main mountain bike trail that will be very obvious.  Go right and take that trail down past another gate.  You’ll be hiking about a mile or so till you come to an area of rocks as depicted below.  You should be able to hear the running water beneath the ground.

Today a couple friends and I set out to go caving (or spelunking as some call it) at the Millerton Lake Caves.  It was only a couple of months ago that I heard of a caving system here in Fresno County.  These caves are located along the San Joaquin River just north of Millerton Lake off of Powerhouse Rd/ Smalley Rd.  I have researched as much as I could but couldn’t find too much information on the exact location of the entrance to these caves –  they have been kept pretty secret around this area it seems like.  Most people I know here in Fresno have lived here their entire lives but have never even heard of them, yet alone venture into them.  As I started asking around I started to find more and more resources on information about them and people that have been there.

We set out for the Squaw Leap Campground area that is located where the trailhead to the caves are.  We had climbing gear, helmets, head lamps & flashlights, gloves, and layered clothing – all of which is required for this type of activity.  After a few hours of hiking around looking for an entrance we decided to call it a day and come back another day.

Once I find the entrance to the cave I plan on updating this post with the coordinates so others with GPS devices may easily navigate to the caves or find them on Google Maps.  Even though we weren’t able to locate the cave entrance today it was still a great time hiking in new areas along the river.  I can’t wait to take the mountain bikes out there and ride the trails.

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13 thoughts on “Millerton Lake Caves (Updated)

  1. I know where the entrance is! It’s not that far from the gate at the end of the road (maybe a half-mile). Continue past the gate and there will be a switchyard on your left. Keep going until you reach the first sharp bend in the road going to the right. Instead of following the road, head straight onto a trail and follow it for a ways and you’ll be on the right track. Good luck!

  2. Thank’s for the helpful info. We backpacked for 2 days around this area, I was looking for these caves mainly. I will be going up soon to hopefully find them with your directions. Thanks again.

  3. Years ago a friend and I stumbled across the Millerton caves while hiking from Wellbarn road to the tramway. I’m much older now and not interested in even hiking a single mile to get to it. I think it may be accessed easier by boat. Are you ever going to post the coordinates? I’ll trade those coordinates for Sullivan and Patterson Mines. I haven’t been to Sullivan mine but Patterson mine has been intentionally collapsed (for safety reasons I suppose), but the remnants outside the mine are really cool to scope out.

  4. I hiked the bike trail the other day to the Big Sandy Creek Bridge. I passed by the area where these caves are not knowing more about them. Have you got any more information you can share with me now that I know where they are located.

  5. We LIKED them secret. The real charm of the caves were their word-of-mouth elusiveness. I’m not excited about everyone and their mother tramping down into a once quiet and secluded hangout area. If I go there and find a bunch of garbage floating at the cave floor I will be rather angry.

    1. I myself was surprised how much a mystery these caves are. When I first was told about them I heard the same thing – they were by word-of-mouth and the people that know about them keep it amongst themselves. Most people I know from Fresno don’t even know they exist. I met one person on the trail prior to finding them that said he’s been hiking the trails for over 15 years and didn’t even know of them. I would also be upset as well if there is a bunch of garbage that is not disposed of properly on any freeway, street, cave, etc. I know that there are a couple other caves at Millerton Lake, but I have yet to find them. If you know of these feel free to email me.

      1. There’s an old abandoned mine on millerton lake as well. Never been inside of it as we stumbled upon it in nothing but our swimsuits while hiking up a mountain on the side of the lake. would be awesome though.

  6. Thanks for the beta… I had moved to Fresno a couple of years ago from the east coast, close to West Virginia caving country. I was always trying to find people or places to go caving within a days drive, but no one was willing to share information or seemed interested. I was rather frustrated! I don’t live in Fresno any longer, but I’m excited to go to these caves this holiday weekend. Thanks for the information! btw if anyone wants to join me, I’m trying to find the caves this Sunday!

    1. Hey Katy! I no longer live in Fresno, but I was up this past weekend visiting friends. We talked about how we need to go back to the caves and also find the other ones that around there. Let me know whenever you come back in the area and maybe we’ll all plan something.

      1. Did anyone find the location to the caves? We’re very respectful nature lovers and would really like to do them! If you have found them, please send me an email at danielabud@gmail.com 🙂 thanks guys! Or reply on here.

  7. Please don’t post the coordinates for this cave. The cave can be dangerous. It’s fairly long and there are drops that must be negotiated by ropes along with very cold swims. This is not a place for people not trained and properly equipped in cave exploring. If you wish to get involved with cave exploring, join the National Speleological Society and one of their local chapters. http://www.caves.org

    1. David, I completely agree. The coordinates are to help experienced people find the caves. We are experienced climbers and canyoneers and came prepared with helmets, harnesses, climbing rope, wet suits, head lamps, etc. However, after driving 4 hours to get there, we walked straight past the caves. We then only did a ~300 ft section of the cave, rather than the full mile, as we did not realize the cave we got into was only a tiny portion of the full cave. We would REALLY have liked to have GPS coordinates! We could even encrypt them (ie, every other number in the following series: 102030405060708090:00010203040 and you would just remove the zeros)

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