Castle Crags State Park in Northern California presents many outdoor opportunities, like hiking, camping, amazing views, and fishing in the Sacramento River. What is so wonderful about this park is that it is located near so many other natural California attractions.
The park is named for the enormous crags that were polished by glaciers millions of years ago. These rock formations, including Castle Dome, are as high as 6,500 feet at their tallest point and the entire length of the Castle Crags runs for 2,000 feet along the Sacramento River. The granite peaks of the Castle Crag, along with Mount Shasta and the rest of the peaks of the Cascade Mountain Range, are the result of volcanic activity almost 200 million years ago. Mother nature has continued to sculpt them since then, but it is the action of the glaciers on these peaks that has given them their unusual profiles. The most distinctive of these is Castle Dome, which has been compared to the Half Dome at Yosemite National Park.
As was typical in California, much of its beautiful natural areas were being depleted by the lumber industry and the mining of gold, mercury, and chromite, so in 1933 a group of citizens acquired the land that is now Castle Crag State Park to preserve it from further destruction. These people then put forth the concept that is now the state park system of California.
Castle Crag has 28 miles of hiking trails which includes Crags Trail, a 5.5 mile round trip. This hike gains 2,200 feet before the turn around, so be prepared for some steep inclines. If you have the stamina and the legs to make it to the top, you will see awe-inspiring views of the Castle Crags and Mount Shasta. On the hike, you will cross Kettlebelly Ridge, which is an original section of the California-Oregon Trail used by the early settlers.
Once you leave the trailhead your climb heads to the west through a pine, cedar, and fir forest. If you are looking for a short hike only, you can veer off the main trail and take the Root Creek Trail, a hike of about a mile that takes you to Root Creek. To continue on Crags Trail, you should bypass this junction and continue to a four-way trail intersection. One of these trails is the Pacific Crest Trail, which travels 2,000 miles from Washington to Mexico.
Continuing along Crags Trail you will be faced with a very steep one-half mile ascent till you get to Bob’s Hat Trail. This trail will take you pack to the Pacific Crest Trail, a good option if you’ve had enough climbing. However, Crags Trail continues north and in another one-half mile you can take a side trip to Indian Springs where ice-cold water bubbles up out of the Castle Crags. After you visit here, you will continue your steep ascent over large flat rocks and around boulders till you reach the trail’s end at the Castle Dome.
Castle Crag Park is six miles south of Dunsmuir on I-5 and 25 miles north of Lake Shasta. From I-5, take the Castella exit and signs will guide you to the park. It has 76 developed campsites and 6 for environmental parking. You can call 530-235-2684 for campground reservations and all other park information including day fees, which are for parking only.
Other areas of interest near the park include Lake Shasta and the Shasta National Forest. The Sacramento River not only offers great fishing but an exciting white water rafting area near Castle Crag. Nearby Mount Shasta offers great skiing in the winter months.