Castle Crags seems to hide in plain sight. Though clearly visible from I-5, the magnificent geological oddity receives less mention than other North State attractions. Maybe people prefer volcanoes to granite spires.
Whatever the reason for Castle Crags’ relative anonymity, the destination certainly deserves a visit. One of the best ways to experience Castle Crags is by hiking up its quintessential route, Castle Dome Trail.
In total length, the trail stretches about 5.5 miles and increases in elevation a couple thousand feet. Before you take off from the trailhead (directions below), be sure to check out the vista point, which offers great views of Castle Crags, Castle Dome, Grey Rocks and Mt. Shasta. The four landmarks present an intriguing geological comparison.
Once you park, proceed a few hundred feet down the road to the trailhead. You’ll also spot the beginning of Root Creek Trail. After a short level section, the route ascends steeply via a few switchbacks. Soon, you reach a clearing where you’ll cross, but not follow the Pacific Crest Trail.
After crossing the PCT, hikers enter dense forest. As you continue climbing, you start to see more light peer through the trees until you exit the trees and the path flattens out. If you have the time and energy, take the spur to Indian Springs, which provides some nice views.
Once you return to the Castle Dome Trail, it starts to climb again. The hike is somewhat bland up to this point, but the payoff is right ahead. Go a little further and you’ve reach the granite section of the trail. At this point, you’re amongst the crags with Castle Dome and Mt. Shasta in view.
Finally, the path stops in a saddle at the base of Castle Dome. Here, you’ve reached one of the best vista points in NorCal. Enjoy it.
From the Castella exit on I-5, proceed a few hundred yards west on Castle Creek Road to the entrance to the State Park. Turn right into the park entrance and pay the $8.00 at the guard station. Turn right immediately after the guard station and continue through the campground. Just beyond the campground there is a turnaround. Use the turnaround if your vehicle does not have a tight steering radius. From here it is a little over a mile up a winding, one lane road to the trailhead.
The park is open from 6AM to 8PM. There is no overnight parking at the trailhead.