castle crags state park

A quick guide to Castle Crags State Park

Castle Crags State Park is a hidden gem in Northern California. Mere yards from the I-5, Castle Crags State Park offers fantastic hiking, camping, and adventures for nearly all skill levels. Plus, for those looking to hike on the PCT, the famous trail cuts through the park, offering trail goers a chance to hike this scenic trail.

Below we’ll quickly dive into Castle Crags State Park and why you should stop on your drive through the area.

castle crags places to see in northern california

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How to Spend a Day (or Two) at Castle Crags State Park

Planning your trip to Castle Crags

Is Castle Crags State Park worth visiting?

Castle Crags State Park is indeed worth visiting! At the top of the main hike, it looks a little like the Dolomites with its jagged granite peaks. I loved exploring here for a quick visit and believe most outdoor enthusiasts would also find enjoyment there.

Where is Castle Crags State Park?

Castle Crags State Park is in Northern California, just south of Mount Shasta. It’s directly off the I-5 and about four hours north of San Francisco. If you’re driving south, it’s just under two hours from Medford, Oregon.

Typical Weather and best time to visit

The weather can fluctuate in Castle Crags. In the winter, it can see snow and freezing conditions, while the summer months could reach triple digits. Average highs in July and August are 94 degrees.

The best time to visit is April through June and September through November.

How Many Days Should I spend here?

You only need a day or two to spend in Castle Crags State Park. While there are plenty of things to do, there are other great places (see below) that you should visit. Spreading out your time in different locations around Northern California will feed your adventure hunger.

castle crags state park

Things to do in Castle Crags State Park

Hike the Castle Crags to Castle Dome Trail

The most popular hike in Castle Crags State Park is the Castle Dome Trail. This 5+ mile hike gains over 2,000 feet of elevation as it winds its way to the Dolomite-looking peaks high above. Once you arrive near the Castle Dome, you can hike around the granite until your heart is content.

It’s a magical area with incredible views, especially if it’s a clear day and Mount Shasta is out.

How long of a hike is Castle Crags?

It’s a 5.2-mile hike, but it’ll be a little longer if you explore the area. (Which I suggest you do!) If you hike this in winter or spring, make sure to bring microspike and hiking poles, as the trail will have plenty of snow and ice.

Related: Northern California places to see

How hard is the hike to Castle Dome in Castle Crags State Park?

I’d say it’s a challenging but doable hike. It’s steep in some sections, but I cruised through most of it as I was excited to see the views at the top. It’ll take you 75-90 minutes to reach the top. In winter, I’d expect it will take you about 30 minutes longer, if not more.

Gear you’ll want while hiking to Castle Dome

Short on time? Check out Vista Point Overlook

If you’re short on time or don’t want to hike to Castle Dome, make sure to check out Vista Point Overlook. It’s a half-mile easy walk to a beautiful viewpoint.

Camping at Castle Crags State Park

I visited Castle Crags in the middle of the week and mid-May, so it wasn’t peak season. So considering these two caveats, I found the park nearly empty, and it was a great place to stay! In addition, the sites are good-sized; my area was forested and a perfect place to call home for a night. In all, they have 76 developed campsites. Furthermore, they have hot showers, which I greatly appreciated after my hike.

To reserve your site, click here and go to Reservations and then Online Reservations. You can also show up if you’re going midweek, as I’m sure it won’t be full.

Car Camping Gear for Castle Crags

Not Looking to Camp?

If you are not looking to camp, there are nearby hotels where you can stay relatively cheaply.

What other things are there to do in Northern California?

In addition to Castle Crags State Park, there are so many super cool things to see in Northern California along the I-5 corridor! So get your hiking boots, strap on your pack, and hit the trails to incredible destinations.

lake siskiyou places to see in northern california

Lake Siskiyou

On the southwestern side of the lake, you can pay $2 to enter a private camp area. Here, you’ll have a beautiful photo spot of Mount Shasta. Just know that they have a hard close time, which will happen before sunset in the summer.

Mount Shasta

One of a handful of 14ers in California and the northernmost Volcano in the Golden State, Mount Shasta is a beautiful mountain rising nearly 10,000 feet off the ground. The mountain offers many hiking options, including summit attempts when conditions allow.

mount shasta sunset

McArthur-Burney Falls State Park

An idyllic state park that is accessible to almost all visitors due to its paved (though steep) path. The waterfall is absolutely stunning and a must-visit for those in Northern California.

McCloud Falls

There are three waterfalls within a few miles of each other. They are all connected via a gentle path that will allow you to stretch your legs and soak in some truly beautiful areas.

middle mccloud falls

Lassen Volcanic National Park

One of California’s overlooked National Parks, though it’s a gem. Think how cool it would be if you combined Yellowstone with mountains and a volcano. This is Lassen. The only downside is due to its elevation, it sees heavy snow and doesn’t open until mid-June or later. If you can plan your trip to see Lassen, do it. You’ll love it!

Heart Lake

Twenty minutes north of Castle Crags State Park, Heart, and Castle Lake are great places to enjoy the sunset, hiking, or camping (in summer, as it also has a late opening date due to snow). If you hike up to or above Heart Lake, you’ll have views of Shasta. It’s pretty unbelievable.

heart lake hikes in california

Wrapping up – Visiting Castle Crags State Park

Whether you spend an afternoon here or the night, you’re will enjoy your trip to Castle Crags State Park and find lots to do in the surrounding areas. Enjoy your trip!

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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