at one of the showcase caves of the Sierra Nevada, Moaning Caverns. They are well-known, if for no reason other than the billboards along Highway 99, and the leaflets in restaurants all over the region. And the cave is spectacular. Far less known are some cavern features just a few miles away as the crow flies: Natural Bridges.
Most people hearing the name will think of Natural Bridges State Park on the beach in Santa Cruz. The caves we visited are a long distance from the coast. They are located on the upper reaches of Coyote Creek, a tributary of the Stanislaus River that drains into New Melones Reservoir near Columbia State Historical Park. It's in the middle of the Mother Lode Gold Rush country.
http://www.usbr.gov/mp/ccao/newmelones/planning_visit.html#hiking. Parking is provided along an older route of Parrots Ferry Road a few miles north of the Gold Rush town of Columbia. It can also be accessed from Vallecito on Highway 4. There is a vault toilet at the trailhead, but not along the creek. The trail is particularly beautiful in the spring when the wildflowers bloom.