Castle Peak is the throat of an ancient volcano and its three turrets are easily visible form nearby Interstate 80 at Donner Summit. Just as Donner Peak overlooks the original Donner Pass (old HWY 40) and is popular with skiers, hikers and climbers, Castle Peak overlooks the newer pass (I-80) and is also very popular with skiers and hikers. Frequently the lower and flatter portion of the trail is choked with people and must be shared with mountain bikers and horses.
In the warmer months Castle Peak is an easy, quick hike with nice views of the northern Tahoe area and the Sierra crest. In the winter it is also an easy venture with ski descents to the west into Round Valley and south into Castle Valley back to the interstate.
Take Interstate 80 to the Castle Peak/Boreal Ridge exit. In the winter it is often necesary to park at either the Sno-Park or the Boreal Ridge parking lot. Both are on the south side of the freeway. Otherwise everyone just parks on the road to the north of the freeway exit where it is paved, free and often crowded.
For information on Sno-Park fees and permits:
For road conditions:
The most popular route starts at the road just north of I-80 at the Castle Peak/Boreal Ridge exit. The road is paved for an eighth of a mile or so up to the gate where it turns into a dirt road and heads north. Where the road terminates (after about one mile) continue north to the saddle and follow the gentle and obvious ridge right on up to the summit. The true summit is actually the eastern most turret and is a quick class 3 scramble with good and ample holds.
When To Climb
Any time of year this peak can be climbed.
Typical Sierra winter weather patterns are encountered here and the summers are usually mild to warm.
This is such a short endeavor that camping is just not necessary except perhaps in the winter when you may like to make a weekend out of it skiing. In that case the famous Peter Grubb Hut is an excellent option. For a nominal fee you and several others can stay in this rustic hut, which is right smack in the middle of Round Valley. Its location facilitates making laps from Castle Peak to the east, Basin Peak to the north and everywhere in between. The hut is available through the Sierra Club:
By virtue of its location and orientation, the Sierra Nevada mountain range is the first area that receives significant precipitation in the form of snow. Many tales of people at odds with extraordinary winter weather originate from the area of Donner Pass including the famous Donner party. Weather data has been gathered here for over 130 years and can be accessed online. Please take a look at weather historian Mark McLaughlins home page:
Considering how much snow this area receives it should come as no surprise that the north ridge between Castle and Basin Peak usually becomes corniced in the winter. So, here is a link to the local avy report:
Local weather report:
Castle Peak was originally named Mount Stanford by the Whitney Survey.
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