ApproachSee “Getting There” on the Main Page.
Route DescriptionThere are no formal trails to the Rock, so you’re free to bushwhack to it any way you like. A marked-up snippet of topo map shows the route that I took from the 2WD parking spot, and a route described to me by another climber who went the 4WD route. The goal is simply to get to the base of the Rock and find the Stairway Crevice southwest of the summit. It’s easy to miss the crevice; the 4WD climber arduously climbed around it a hundred feet or so to the west. Upon reaching the top, he stepped over its narrow exit, thinking, “Whoa. Wouldn’t want to fall into that.”
The 2WD route follows a creekbed to the west, avoiding a low, brushy hill that initially spoils your view of the Rock. About the time the Rock comes into view, turn South and ascend a bit through oaks, junipers and manzanitas onto the apron of the Rock itself. As you round the western end, you’ll pass a jumble of boulders that’s probably prime mountain-lion habitat. Look sharp. Now you will head east a short distance, hugging the base of the rock following a well-worn game trail. You will be staring up at the rock anyway, so watch for a couple of turret structures with a brushy crevice between them. That’s your staircase; approximate GPS coordinates N31° 22.912 W111° 06.139.
The crevice takes you most of the way to the top. It’s steep, but not vertical, and filled with helpful hand- and footholds, including lots of strong, green saplings. Scramble up the crevice to the top and turn right (east). After climbing a bit more, you’ll find a summit register in a pile of rocks (GPS coordinates N31° 22.889 W111° 06.218). The actual summit is another hundred yards or so of boulder-hopping to the east. Just before you reach the summit, there’s a relatively narrow rock bridge with spine-tingling exposure, particularly to the south. But you wouldn’t be here if you were afraid of heights.
Unlike a typical high-altitude summit, from which the views are vast but detail is lost, the vistas from Castle Rock are more intimate. Not the view out of an airplane window, but rather from a 30th-story balcony. You can make out cars and people in the nearby campgrounds and recreation areas, and see Peña Blanca Lake. Look to the northwest and find the oven-mitt shape of Thumb Butte; those mountains beyond it are Atascosa Lookout and Atascosa Peak, both great hiking destinations.
To return, descend to the base of the Rock via the crevice. Here, either backtrack along your original path or head eastward around the base of the Rock then bushwhack northeast back to the 2WD parking area. Hiking distance is 2 to 2.5 miles roundtrip; elevation gain is about 550 feet.
From the 4WD parking spot, the crevice is less than ¼ mile away and should be in sight throughout your short hike.