The Castle Crags are a compact granitic range at the edge of the Klamath Mountains bordering Strawberry Valley in northern California. They explode out of the forest like a fairy tale castle in the sky, or perhaps enormous granitic missles. The spires consist of relatively solid granite, and offer some exceptional climbing opportunities (scrambling to technical rock climbing). The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) goes through the park, and a 2.7 mile access trail offers access to Castle Crags Wilderness, part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.. Though the range looks diminutive from the lofty slopes of Mt. Shasta, the higher peaks rise above 5,000’ above the level of the sea. Perhaps the most prominent features are Castle Dome and Mt. Hubris (The Ogre). The area offers easy access from the freeway, reasonably short approaches, and fairly comfortable accommodations in the form of a well-supplied campsite.
One of the great joys of climbing at the Castle Crags is the amazing views one has of mighty Mt. Shasta.
is a map of potential avalanche areas to be aware of if contemplating winter backcountry travel in or around the Castle Crags Wilderness.
Climbing at the Crags
Driving past the crags, one can't help but salivate at the thought of ascending the spires looming above. Indeed, others with ropes and hardware had the same thoughts- climbs abound on the formations. As far as cragging areas go, the area is far more infrequently visited than the destinations farther south in the state. This is great & not so great- the young granite has had fewer hands pry away the loose, dangerous stuff, but (unless you're going for the Cosmic wall, perhaps) you'll likely have the climb to yourself.
The climbing here is principally trad'- bring your hardware. Difficulties range from 5.6 through 5.11. The rock here is good, but is young, doesn't see a huge amount of traffic, & won't be as solid as in other areas you might be accustomed to (i.e. it's no Yosemite Valley). The approach & solitude lend an alpine feel to the experience. Sections might be runout. While planning, take these things into consideration as not to exceed your ability.
The Cosmic Wall (5.6), going straight up Mt. Hubris (The Ogre) is the area's ϋber classic, a 3(/3) star route established by none other than renowned Himalayan hardman (Sir) Chris Bonington.
Check out Classic Rock Climbs No. 18: Castle Crags California, by Laird Davis (Chockstone Press- a Falcon guide, ISBN 1-57540-043-X) for more information.
Castle Crags are located approximately 70 miles south of the Oregon/California state line (6 miles south of Dunsmuir) along interstate 5 (or approx. 50 miles north of Redding, CA). From I5, take the Castella exit (also marked "Castle Crags State Park"). Note that the exits on interstate highway 5 in California are now (finally) numbered; the exit you want is #724. From the exit ramp, drive west a few hundred yards till you see the "guard booth" for the state park.
Stop here and pay either the day use fee ($4/day/car, self-issued) or secure the camp site reservation. Past the entrance, make a right and follow the winding road through the campground and past a trailer turn-around loop (follow signs for Castle Crags overlook). Continue to road's end at the Castle Crags overlook parking lot (no parking 8pm to 6am....not sure how strictly enforced this rule is).
First off, the California State Park is currently closed (see section 1). The following information is being retained for when the current budgetary restrictions pass, & the state park is again operational.
How much dough will being here set you back? Within Castle Crags State Park, a day-use pass is required ($6 as of February, 2005).
Also, as a California State Park, certain rules should be abided by while visiting. Most of this is common sense- just don’t do anything stupid. The following rules I copied, practically verbatim, from a park brochure (obtained February 2005 & dated May ’98) entitled “CALIFORNIA STATE PARK SYSTEM RULES AND REGULATIONS BRIEFED:”
· NATURAL SCENERY, PLANTS AND ANIMAL LIFE are the principal attractions of most state parks. They are integral parts of the ecosystem and natural community. As such they are protected by Federal, State and Park laws. Disturbance or destruction of these resources is strictly forbidden.
· DEAD AND DOWN WOOD is part of the natural condition. Decayed vegetation forms humus and assists the growth of trees and other plants. For this reason the gathering of down wood is prohibited. Fuel is sold in the parks for your convenience. (When considered a hazard, down wood is removed by park personnel.)
· DOGS AND OTHER DOMESTIC ANIMALS are not permitted to run at large in any unit of the State Park System. Dogs or cats must be in a tent or vehicle during nighttime hours. Dogs must be controlled on a leash no longer than six feet during the day. Dogs are prohibited in some parks, on all trainls, and on any beach adjacent to any body of water except in designated areas.
· ALL VEHICLE TRAVEL must be confined to designated roads or areas. The speed for all vehicles is 15 miles per hour in camp, picnic, utility or headquarters areas and areas of general assemblage; in no event shall any vehicle be driven at a speed greater than 25 miles per hour in other areas unless otherwise posted. All vehicles and all drivers must be licensed. Parking is permitted only in designated areas. Blocking parking spaces is prohibited.
· CAMPSITE USE must be paid for in advance. To hold a campsite, it must be reserved or occupied. To prevent encroachment on others, the limits of each campsite may be regulated by the District Superintendent. Checkout time is 12:00 NOON.
In order to provide for the greatest number of visitors possible the CAMPING LIMIT in any one campground is 30 days per calendar year.
· REFUSE, including garbage, cigarettes, paper boxes, bottles, ashes and other rubbish, shall be placed only in designated receptacles. Your pleasure and pride in your parks will be enhanced when they are kept clean.
PLEASE clean up after yourself so that others may enjoy the beauty of these parks.
The pamphlet sums it up beautifully & poetically: “LEAVE ONLY FOOTPRINTS, TAKE ONLY MEMORIES.”
The main park campground is $30. Primitive sites, lacking some of the amenities, are $15. There are also limited 'bike & hike' sites for $5.
suggests this alternative to the standard State Park campground- thanks!):
If the main family campground isn't your cup of tea, there are a couple of "environmental" sites available. Follow Castle Creek Road into the park, and instead of turning right into the campground hang toward the left and continue on Castle Creek Road (about a mile) until you see a flume on the right hand side, with three campsites behind it. Each site has a picnic table and food box, and a poorly maintained vault toilet. When I was last there in 2005, I believe it was $5 a night per site. This site is worth looking for... it's much quieter and seems miles away from the front of the park.
The Battle of Castle Crags
By the 1850s, after a few years of gold rush, the uneasy relations between miners and native Americans had reached a tipping point. The resulting 1855 Battle of Castle Crags marked the beginning of the long and drawn-out Modoc War. The primary location of this battle was at the very northwest end of the Crags, between what is now known as Battle Rock and Castle Lake.
•Castle Crags State Park:
-state park website
- Phone #s 530-235-2684, 530-225-2065
-USGS: 7.5’ Dunsmuir
-USFS: Castle Crags Wilderness
•Classic Rock Climbs No. 18: Castle Crags California, by Laird Davis (Chockstone Press- a Falcon guide, ISBN 1-57540-043-X)