With a lack of major cities in Northern California, unless you are from here, you've probably only seen it passing by the windows of your car. Well, it's time you stopped and saw what it's all about. Castle Crags State Park is an great place to stop for a few nights and get into some of the most rewarding hiking in the state.
Heading north from Redding on I-5 the road looks like it's going to disappear. The woods are so thick and the foothills so jagged that after the Shasta Lake bridge you half-expect a tunnel instead of the steady climb that ensues. As the road heads straight toward towering Mount Shasta, Castle Crags is the massive cluster of jagged rocks to the west.
Inside the sprawling Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and beginning at the banks of the Upper Sacramento River, the peaks of Castle Crags tower over the heavily wooded landscape, rising over four thousand feet from the campground to the mountain summits.
This is serious mountain hiking, and a well known playground for technical rock climbers. With twenty-eight miles of trails in the park and the Pacific Coast Trail running right through, top-notch hiking boots should be the first thing on your list when you're preparing to visit.
There are viewpoints that can be accessed in less than two miles, and some that will take up most of the day. The campground will let you spend more of your time exploring, and is open all year, and reservable through the peak season. The weather here is outstanding, and is typically dry and warm more than half the year. When it's over 100 degrees, the Sacramento River beckons right in the day use area and several lakes are less than an hour away. The views in every direction are spectacular, so be sure to come with your best camera.
Nearby Mount Shasta is a lively ski town with shopping, restaurants, and a slew of beer and coffee spots for the young and adventurous crowd. Mount Shasta Ski Park is open for downhill mountain biking in the summer and skiers and snowboarders in the winter.
RV Rentals in Castle Crags State Park
Transportation in Castle Crags State Park
The parking areas are not very large in the campground or at the day use lot. This is definitely not a good spot for large trailers or motorhomes. I-5 is kept in excellent shape, but the semi trucks drive really fast and you may have no choice but to keep up some times. This is a very scenic area and it is recommended that you also explore the town of Mount Shasta while you're here.
Campgrounds and parking in Castle Crags State Park
Campsites in Castle Crags State Park
Castle Crags State Park Campground
The reservation system is available May-Sept. for the 76 developed campsites. First-come first-served applies the rest of the year. This is basic camping: a picnic table, fire grill, and old-fashioned stone ovens. There are bears in Northern CA, so food lockers are also provided. Water is available between sites and there are full restrooms and coin showers available.
The campground is heavily wooded with the sound of the river heard through the back half of the loop. The noise from I-5 can be disturbing to tent campers, so getting sites close to the water may be preferred.
Seasonal activities in Castle Crags State Park
Summers in the mountains of Northern California are sweet. It gets quite hot, even at this elevation, and it's not unusual to have eighty degree evenings in August. The picnic area on the Sacramento River has some places with good access to the water. Levels have been really low in recent years, so if you're determined to dive into deep water you may need to trek to Lake Siskiyou, about 30 minutes north.
It's a long hike in to access but Castle Crags remains a very popular climbing area for sport and traditional climbs. There are granite spires, domes, and walls ranging from 20 to 900 feet. May is optimal with warm temps and minimal rain. The mid summer heat can be oppressive. There are places to climb for any time of day, and even the snow doesn't stop people from getting in for early spring scenery. The summit views have created faithful repeat visitors - this is a very special place.
Northern California has a tremendous history of gold mining. All of the nearby towns, including Castella and Dunsmuir can relate their existence to some part of mining lore. Though this section of the Sacramento river is not a famous spot, perhaps you will find a paystreak that has been overlooked all these years. The low water levels in the middle of summer expose lots of great spots where gold may have settled for centuries. Check with the park ranger before you get out your shovel.
Mountain Trout Fishing
Catch and release fishing is allowed year round on the Sacremento river which runs right through Castle Crags State Park. The campground marks a transition in the river. Upstream from here it gets steep and difficult to access. Fly fishing is excellent here and wild brown and rainbow trout make the upper Sacramento river their home. Check with the CDFW for regulations and legal opportunities to keep your catch.
Hiking Opportunities Galore
With 28 miles of hiking trails within the Castle Crags SP, you can visit several times and cover new terrain each time. Crags Trails covers seven miles to the jaw-dropping views at the base of Castle Dome. This popular route climbs 2,600 vertical feet and gets pretty steep and narrow toward the top. The dangers in this area need to be respected. Come prepared with great footwear, plenty of water, snacks, and an extra layer for quick-dropping temperatures in the evening. Leave the dogs at home, they are not allowed on the trails.
This complex of rocky peaks is stunning from so many vantage points that you'll actually feel like you're taking unique pictures for once. Mountain wildflowers, Mt. Shasta, the Sacramento River, a suspension bridge, rock climbers and wildlife will all fill up your camera easily. Snow-covered scenes here are well worth the difficult hiking on sunny days in March or April. Bring your best hiking boots and an extra battery pack.