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 a great place to stop for a few nights and get into some of the most rewarding hiking in the state.
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 4,000 feet from the campground to the mountain summits. This is serious mountain hiking and a well-known playground for technical rock climbers. With 28 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 packing list when you're preparing to visit in your motorhome.
There are viewpoints that can be accessed in less than two miles, and some that will take up most of the day. The weather here is outstanding and is typically dry and warm for more than half the year. When it's over 100 degrees, the Sacramento River is right near 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.
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.
I-5 is kept in excellent shape, but the semi-trucks drive really fast and you may have no choice but to keep up sometimes. This is a very scenic area and many visitors enjoy seeing Shasta Lake, Shasta Abbey, and the city park while they are in the area.
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. In fact, if your RV is over 27 feet long, you will have to camp in the Riverside Campground, which is first-come, first-served and only has 12 sites. You may want to consider staying at one of the other state parks or campgrounds in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. You will still be able to enjoy Castle Crags State Park during the day.
In the gorgeous wooded area of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, you will find the Castle Crags State Park Campground on the northern side of the Sacramento River. This campground has 64 RV and tent campsites with no utility hookups. However, each of the sites does have a campfire grill and a picnic table so you can eat together outside. There is also an old-fashioned stone oven with a grill that you can cook on, which is very cool. Most of these sites can only fit rigs up to 20 feet long, although there are a few that can handle RVs up to 27 feet. Make sure you check this when making your reservations.
The park also provides bear-proof food lockers to keep your food safe and prevent any unwelcome bear visits. Although, this does not mean they won’t come around so always be bear-aware. If you bring your furbaby, always keep them restrained and supervised. Dogs are allowed at your campsite but not on the trails. Showers and modern restrooms with running water are available within walking distance of each site as well. You’ll enjoy the sounds of the river if you choose sites 14 through 21, while the rest of them are tucked more deeply into the woods.
Trinity Center, CA is home to Trinity Lake, a popular summer destination for fishing, boating, and kayaking. With the campground’s remote location, feel free to unplug and recharge at Trinity Lake KOA, where big rigs up to 65 feet are welcome. Wooded sites with full hookups and up to 50-amp service are furnished with seating and rustic fire pits. Bring the pups, because pets are welcome at the campground. Enjoy mini-golf and bike rentals, lounge by the heated pool, and refuel at the snack bar. Propane and firewood are available for purchase on-site.
In the alpine reaches of northern California, you can find beautiful Mount Shasta City KOA a bit off the beaten path and enjoy a fabulous nature-filled vacation. With an elevation of 3,500 feet, under the peak of Mt. Shasta, this is a great spot for anyone interested in tackling the mountain, which offers great hiking and skiing opportunities. Mount Shasta City KOA has a nice selection of amenities, too, like Wi-Fi, 50-amp hookups, a swimming pool, cable TV, and pull-through sites for rigs up to 80 feet long.
On the other side of the Sacramento River, you can find another 12 campsites next to the day-use area and picnic area. These are first-come, first-served sites, so get to the park early if you want a spot, especially on weekends and holidays. The sites on this side of the lake are much larger, so if your rig is over 27 feet, you will want to check out this campground. These heavily wooded sites also offer campfire rings, picnic tables, bear boxes, and stone oven grills.
The day-use area right next door has restrooms with running water and plenty of space to enjoy a game of frisbee or catch. The Sacramento River is just a few feet from the campground as well so you can take a swim, do some fishing, or just enjoy the sound of the water. Pets are welcome but keep them restrained and watch them at all times. Bears do frequent the area. Keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on the trails.
The park also offers six environmental campsites located in various areas of the park in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and the Castle Crags Wilderness Area. These campsites are for backpackers, and each of them requires at least a mile of hiking to get to them. Several of these are along the Pacific Crest Trail, and there are some on the Flume Trail and Riverside Road. Environmental campsites are typically equipped with a picnic table, a cleared area for a tent, and a chemical toilet nearby.
Pets are not allowed at these sites and stays are limited to seven nights at a time. Reservations are not needed. Be sure to arrive at least a few hours before dark so you can get to your site and set up camp. Be aware that there are many bears in the area and no bear boxes, so you will have to bring your own bear-proof container. Bears can be attracted to cosmetics, lotions, and many other personal items. Contact the park office for more information.
Summers in the mountains of northern California are sweet. It gets quite hot, even at this elevation, and it's not unusual to have 80-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. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and water toys.
It's a long hike to get there, 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. The month of May is optimal in this part of California 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.
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.
Catch and release fishing is allowed year-round on the Sacramento 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 with a plethora of wild brown and rainbow trout that make the upper Sacramento River their home. Check with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for regulations and legal opportunities to keep your catch. Be sure to get a California fishing license before tossing out your line.
With 28 miles of hiking trails within the Castle Crags State Park, you can visit several times and cover new terrain each time. Crags Trails will take you seven miles up 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. While dogs are allowed at the campsites, they are not permitted 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, Mount 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. You should also bring along some sunscreen as well, no matter what time of year you go. The higher you get, the closer you are to the sun.