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Castle Crags Hike to Castle Dome

Popular with rock climbers because of its dramatic peaks, Castle Crags feels a bit like a baby Yosemite. This 5.4 mile out-and-back hike leads you high into these dramatic, granite peaks in less than three miles. While the hike to Castle Dome is short, the steep trail makes you work for the views. But, don’t worry the view at the end of this hike is definitely worth the effort.

This hike begins in Castle Crags State Park, at the far north end of the Sacramento Valley and just south of Dunsmuir, California. While the hike begins in Castle Crags State Park, Castle Dome itself is located in the Castle Crags Wilderness, a 10,500-acre wilderness preserve within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

A hiker admiring the view from the top of the Castle Crags trail in the Castle Crags Wilderness.

This hike is best done in April-November. The high peaks in Castle Crags will hold snow and on heavy snow years it may be impossible to do this entire hike in the winter. In the summer temperatures often reach over 90 degrees, so hikers should plan to start early and complete the hike by mid-morning.

Getting to Castle Crags State Park

Castle Crags State Park is located 6 miles south of Dunsmuir or 48 miles north of Redding. From highway 5; take exit 724 toward Castella and follow signs for Castle Crags State Park. Turn right onto Castle Crags State Park and stop at the entrance station to pay the $8 park admission fee. Pick-up a map at the entrance station because the roads inside the park do not appear in Google Maps.
The entrance station is located at:
20022 Castle Creek Road
Castella, CA 96017
After entering the park, turn right and head towards the campground. Drive through the campground and follow signs for vista point. After passing the campground, the road becomes a steep, narrow, single lane road not suitable for RVs or oversized vehicles. The road ends at a small parking lot with spaces for about 20 cars.

Castle Dome as seen from the Castle Crags hike in Castle Crags State Park.

About the Castle Crags Trail

Download the GPS tracks for this hike from CalTopo.
The best time to hike is April-November.
Dogs are not allowed on the trails.
The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
You can download a map with all of the trails in the park from the Castle Crags State Park website.
Water is available within the park, but not at the trailhead.
Bathrooms are available at the trailhead.

Crags Trail Hiking Map and Elevation Profile

Trail map for the Castle Crags to Castle Dome hike
Elevation profile for the Castle Crags to Castle Dome hike.

Detailed Trail Report for Castle Crags Hike to Castle Dome

Pick-up the Crags Trail from the vista point inside of Castle Crags State Park. You’ll spy the trailhead from the car as you round the last bend in the narrow, single lane road and approach the parking area. (There is a handicap parking space next to the trail head.)

The trail begins as a pleasant, flat walk through the woods. When you reach the junction with the Root Creek Trail, take the path on the left and go up the stairs to continue on the Castle Crags Trail. Pace yourself, because you’ll be steadily climbing from here on out. The trail is flat and heavily forested with pines and oak trees, but in the summer the shade doesn’t provide much break from the heat. It is recommended to start your hike in the early morning when the forest is still foggy and cool.

The first part of the Castle Crags hike on the way to Castle Dome is heavily forested.

Near the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) the canopy opens up and power lines pass overhead. When you reach the junction with the PCT continue straight, following signs for the Dome Trail toward Indian Springs.

When you reach a junction with Bob’s Hat Trail, continue straight on the Crags Trail. After another three-quarters of a mile you’ll reach a junction with the Indian Springs Trail. Here you have the option to make a left to take a short side trip to a small spring. This mileage is not included in this hike summary. We decided against the detour, but I’ve heard that this stretch of trail has some amazing views of the canyon and overlooks the PCT.

If you decide against the detour to Indian Springs, continue on the Castle Dome trail and enter into the Castle Crags Wilderness, part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. There will be a wooden sign marking the transition. Castle Crags and Castle Dome rise above the trees and the trail starts to get rocky and rough. The forested switchbacks are replaced with rocky sections of granite, amazing views, and some uneven steps and large drop-offs. To the east, forested canyons stretch out for miles.

Castle Crags Wilderness is full of towering granite spires.

Continue to make your way through the rocky peaks towards Castle Dome. You might see some climbers on the sheer rock face. The trail ends at the base of Castle Dome. If you have a fear of heights (like me!) you’ll probably be content to eat your lunch and take in the views from here. If you have more of an adventurous spirit you may want to try to scramble around the rocks and explore a bit, just be careful of the sharp drop-offs and sections of slippery granite.

When you’ve finished taking in the views, turn around and re-trace your path back to the vista point parking lot.

Camping at Castle Crags State Park

Since we wanted to get an early start we decided to camp at the park. We had hiked to Heart Lake earlier in the day and we were nervous about finding a campsite so late in the afternoon. Luckily we didn’t have any reason to worry!

We were told that the campground rarely fills up and that we could have our pick of sites. The campground has 76 spots total spread across three loops. Most of the campsites are in the main part of the park, but there are a few campsites down by the river as well. The campsites are large and have plenty of room for multiple tents.

We chose a spot in the upper loop, not knowing that it was the same spot that one of the resident black bears likes to hang out it. Luckily we keep a clean campsite and we never saw the bear! The campground provides bear boxes and encourages all campers to use them at all times.

The campground has clean bathrooms with running water and hot showers, but very little other services. The campground makes a great home base if you are exploring the Shasta area.

The trail to Castle Dome is exposed and can get very hot in the summer.

 

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The Trailhead

Pick-up the Crags Trail from the vista point inside of Castle Crags State Park. You’ll spy the trailhead from the car as you round the last bend in the narrow, single lane road and approach the parking area. (There is a handicap parking space next to the trail head.)

There are restrooms and a small picnic area at the trailhead. The small parking area can fit about 20 cars and fills up quickly.

The Route

Pick-up the Crags Trail from the vista point inside of Castle Crags State Park.

When you reach the junction with the Root Creek Trail, take the path on the left and go up the stairs to continue on the Castle Crags Trail.

Continue straight to stay on the Castle Crags Trail when you pass the junctions for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Bob’s Hat Trail.

When you reach a junction with the Indian Springs Trail you can choose to make a left to take a short side trip to a small spring. (This mileage is not included in this hike summary.)

If you decide against the detour to Indian Springs, continue on the Castle Dome trail and enter into the Castle Crags Wilderness.

Continue to follow the trail to the base of Castle Dome. When you reach the end of the trail turn around and re-trace your steps back to the parking area.

Other Details

Parking: Park at the vista point inside of Castle Crags State Park. There is room for about 20 cars.

Restroom: Pit toilets are available at the trailhead. Additional restrooms (with flush toilets and running water) are located inside the campground.

Water: Available at the campground, but there is no water at the trailhead.

Cost: $8 entrance fee.

Like all outdoor pursuits, hiking can be dangerous. It is up to you to assess your fitness level and education yourself about any potential dangers. While I try to regularly update these hiking guides, you should always research trail conditions before heading out.

Being prepared means arriving at the trailhead with water and some basic provisions. Each and every time I hit the trail I bring a backpack with more water than I think I need, a small first aid kit, and a snack. I also share my itinerary and plans with friends or family and I carry an InReach so I can summon help if needed. If you want to know what I carry in my pack during day hikes check out my blog post about essential gear for day hikers.

Stay safe, enjoy the trail, and soak up the magic of nature!

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