Home » 2014 Pacific Northwest

Castle Crags State Park, CA

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 7:15am by Lolo
310 miles and 6 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Castle Dome and Mount ShastaCastle Dome and Mount ShastaWe left the Petaluma KOA Tuesday morning and started driving north towards Bend, where we would meet up with the boys and Celeste on Friday night. That gave us 4 days in between to explore whatever I5 and its surrounds had to offer. Some ideas I had were the Mount Shasta area and Grants Pass, where we could raft the Rogue River.

As we were driving up I5, I started reading out loud the section of the guide book on the Mount Shasta area to see what we might want to do. As I read these words, “Castle Crags State Park is named for the awesome granite spires that tower 6,000 feet above the park. Beyond to the north is giant Mount Shasta (14,179 feet), making for a spectacular natural setting,” we knew exactly where we wanted to go. Fortunately, it was mid-week, because the park only has three RV camping sites. A quick call confirmed that we would have no problem getting one for the night.

The State Park is really close to I5. In fact, the spires are quite visible from the highway. I think Herb would have been quite upset with me if we first learned about them when speeding by them.

Lolo on Crags Trail and Mount ShastaLolo on Crags Trail and Mount ShastaAfter settling into our pull-thru site, we detached the Subaru and drove up the steep, windy road at the end of the campground to Vista Point. From the parking lot at the top of the road, we walked the ¼-mile trail to the viewpoint, where we looked out over the picturesque spires of Castle Crags and snow-covered Mount Shasta. As spectacular as the view was, we knew it would only improve with the low light of sunset, so we decided to come back later with a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers, and tripod and camera.

Since we had a few hours to kill, I went for a run on the River Trail which runs alongside the Upper Sacramento River. It was a very cool run, first passing under I5, then through a tunnel under the railroad tracks (as a very noisy train was passing by overhead), and then across the river on a pedestrian suspension bridge. From there, I ran along a dirt trail that traced the river for about 1.5 miles, before turning around and retracing my steps. It was a very peaceful and satisfying run, especially after a day of sitting in the motorhome.

After a shower and a quick dinner, Herb and I drove back up to Vista Point with cooler and camera gear, where we had a very lovely evening sipping wine and gazing out at the truly incredible scenery.

Lolo Approaching the Base of Castle DomeLolo Approaching the Base of Castle DomeThe guidebooks had warned that this park can be quite noisy due to its proximity to I5 and the railroad tracks, but it didn’t bother us at all. Perhaps it would have been more of an issue if we were camping in a tent rather than a motorhome. I did hear an occasional train pass by, but for some reason I always find that peaceful and romantic, so it didn’t bother me in the least.

The next morning we set out to do the classic hike in the park, the 5.7-mile (RT) hike to the base of Castle Dome. Castle Dome is quite distinguishable in that it is much more rounded and less “craggy” than the other spires, and it looks a bit like a smaller version of Half Dome in Yosemite.

The hike was quite steep and it wasn’t long before I felt a slight burning sensation on the back of my right heel. Herb has always warned me to stop immediately when something like this occurs to avoid getting a bad blister, so we stopped and applied some moleskin.

I can understand why this hike is a classic. For the first mile and a half or so, the trail passes through a lovely forest before emerging into the open for some incredible views of the ubiquitous Mount Shasta and the Crags. From here on, the hike got a bit more strenuous as we eventually ascended up to and through the pinnacles themselves.

Herb & Lolo at Vista Point ViewpointHerb & Lolo at Vista Point ViewpointFor the last 1/2-mile or so, I had begun to feel my left heel and my (I am embarrassed to say) left bunion burning. Stupidly, I ignored the Herb rule of immediately stopping and figured I would just deal with it at the top. Big mistake!

For the last mile of the trip the views just kept getting better and better, and we stopped often to take photos. Mountain ranges, such as the Rockies are truly spectacular, but nothing can compare to the awe-inspiring sight of a singular, massive volcanic mountain dominating the landscape.

When we stopped at the base of Castle Dome to have lunch, I took off my hiking boots for a peek. Oops – too late. I already had some serious looking blisters starting. We applied moleskin, but I am afraid the cow was already out of the barn.

If my foot wasn’t so bad, I would have loved to hike a bit more amongst the pinnacles, but I figured we already had far enough to go just to get down to the car—and as most hikers know, downhill is in many ways just as hard, or even more so, than uphill. By the time I got back to the car, I knew I wouldn’t be doing much hiking for the next few days. I just wanted it to get better by the time we met the boys on Friday, so that I wouldn’t have to stay behind while they all did fun stuff.

We had worked it out with the park ranger that we could have a late checkout, so rather than stay another night, we headed out mid-afternoon to drive just 25 miles further north to the Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort, where we would have more terrific views of Mount Shasta, this time from the shores of a lake.


Herb with Mount ShastaHerb with Mount ShastaCastle Crags State Park is located in the town of Castella, just off I5, about 45 miles north of Redding, California. The park is named for its soaring granite spires that tower 6,000 feet above the park. Like nearby Mt. Shasta, these spires were formed by volcanic activity more than 200 million years ago. During the past million years or so, the eroding forces of wind, rain, and ice have shaped the granite into its current distinctive shapes. Standing out amongst the spiky peaks, is one rounded one, known as Castle Dome – often compared to Yosemite’s Half Dome.

Recreational opportunities within its 4,350 acres include:
• 28 miles of hiking trails
• Fishing and swimming in the Sacramento River
• Rock climbing the crags
• Gazing at Mt. Shasta from Vista Point

Most visitors to the park make the short, twisty drive to Vista Point (no RVs or trailers allowed), and walk the ¼-mile trail to a spectacular view of three distinct volcanic features: Castle Crags, Mount Shasta and Grey Rocks.

The most popular hike in the park is the 5.7 mile (RT) steep hike to the base of Castle Dome. The first 2/3 of the hike leads through thick forest before emerging and winding through the lower crags. The final third of this strenuous hike ascends through granite pinnacles with incredible views of Mount Shasta, Grey Rocks, and Castle Dome.

There is a 76-site, mostly tent-only campground, with 3 sites for RVs up to 27 feet (no hook-ups).

Castle Crags State Park location map in "high definition"

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