castle crags state park

Your Ultimate Guide to Exploring Castle Crags State Park

Castle Crags State Park is a hidden gem in Northern California. Mere yards from the I-5, this 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 trailgoers 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.

Why you can trust me: You can trust that this blog is authentic as I’ve spent time here, and I recommend it to everyone. I try to use my blog like I’d talk to my friends, and this Castle Crags guide is one you’ll be stoked about!

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

castle crags places to see in northern california

A few things to know before you visit.

Here is the entrance location address: 20022 Castle Creek Road Castella, CA 96017

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

Castle Crags’s weather can fluctuate. In the Winter, it can see snow and freezing conditions, while in the summer, it 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 appetite for adventure.

Things to do in Castle Crags State Park

Hike the Castle Crags to Castle Dome Trail

The Castle Dome Trail is the most popular and best hike in Castle Crags State Park. This 5+ mile hike gains over 2,000 feet of elevation as it winds toward the Dolomite-looking jagged peaks high above.

The trail starts at the Vista Point Parking Lot with a gentle first quarter mile. After that, it gradually ascends – though nothing is too steep – into the peaks above. While it is about 2,000 feet of elevation gain in 2.6 miles, I personally never felt overly fatigued.

While it was cloudy for me, which limited my visibility, it is still a magical area with crazy views. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see the 14er volcano, Mount Shasta.

Once you arrive near the Castle Dome, you can hike around the granite until your heart is content.

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 microspikes and hiking poles, as the trail will have plenty of snow and ice.

Related: Northern California places to see

castle crags state park

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 these other trails or things to do in Castle Crags State Park:

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.

Root Creek Trail via the PCT

Embark on a scenic adventure through Castle Crags State Park by hiking the Root Creek Trail via the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This trail immerses you in a lush forest setting, where towering trees provide a canopy for the path.

As you follow the PCT, be prepared for breathtaking views of the iconic Castle Crags, their granite spires rising majestically above the landscape. The Root Creek Trail offers a moderate challenge, leading you along the babbling creek and revealing the park’s diverse flora and fauna.

Upper Sacramento River Trail

The Upper Sacramento River Trail is a picturesque hike that winds along the pristine Sacramento River, offering a serene escape into nature. As you traverse this trail, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas of the river, surrounded by the rugged beauty of Castle Crags.

The trail is relatively level, making it accessible to hikers of various skill levels. Take your time to enjoy the tranquility of the river, spot wildlife, and appreciate the unique geological formations that characterize this enchanting part of Castle Crags State Park.

Flume Trail and PCT Loop

For a more challenging and diverse hiking experience, consider the Flume Trail and PCT Loop. This trail takes you on a journey through varied terrain, including meadows, forests, and rocky outcrops. Marvel at the engineering marvels of the historic flume system, which once transported logs from the mountains.

As you ascend, catch panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including the impressive Castle Crags. This loop provides an opportunity to connect with both the natural and historical aspects of Castle Crags State Park while offering a satisfying adventure for seasoned hikers.

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

Interesting Fact about the Area

This comes from the Castle Crags State Park website:

The monolith and its surroundings are a microcosm of the Klamath Mountains where many such monoliths intrude and stitch together a crazy quilt of much older rocks. The surrounding rocks include the Trinity ultramafic sheet, the largest exposed body of ultramafic rock in North America. The ultramafic rock is often interpreted to represent an ancient ophiolite – a slice of the oceanic crust.

FAQ: Castle Crags State Park in California

Are dogs allowed in Castle Crags State Park?

Yes, dogs are allowed in parking lots, paved roadways, and at the campgrounds. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the hiking trails at Castle Crags State Park.

Is Castle Crags State Park open year-round?

Yes, Castle Crags is open for hiking and camping year-round. Day use hours are sunrise to sunset – which will vary depending on the time of year you’d visit.

How can I contact Castle Crags State Park?

You can give them a call at this number: (530) 235-2684

Wrapping up – Visiting Castle Crags State Park

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

I was stunned by the beauty of the area and if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you will too!

Enjoy your trip.

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside