We first drove by Castle Crags in 2016 on our way to Portland to explore the world famous Columbia River Gorge and see Dead & Company at Moda Center. Then in 2017, we saw the towering crags again on a weekend adventure to visit Lake Shasta Caverns, The McCloud River Waterfalls, Hedge Creek Falls, Shasta State Historic Park, the Sun Dial Bridge, and the Turtle Bay Exploration Center.
Each time we drove past the crags, I wanted to stop and check them out up close, but we never had time… until now. On our 2018 summer road trip, we had two days to get from Eugene, Oregon to Mountain View, California, which meant we could spend the night between in Redding and hike a short trail at Castle Crags State Park on the way.
Castle Crags Vista Point Trail
While Castle Crags State Park has almost 30 miles of hiking trails, in the summer it is VERY hot and quite a few of those miles are moderate to strenuous trails. While I did think about hiking the Crags Trail, we ended up sticking with the Vista Point Trail for a few good reasons:
- We arrived at the park in the late afternoon and only had that afternoon/evening to explore.
- We were exhausted from the weekend of day time adventures and night time concerts.
- In the early evening the mosquitoes were coming out and none of were wearing bug spray!
The Vista Point Trail is an easy, 0.25 mile, accessible, out and back trail that totals 0.5 miles. It winds through a beautiful, shaded redwood forest to a vista point with stunning views of Castle Crags, Mount Shasta, and nearby Grays Rocks. The vista point has a picnic table and viewing telescopes too.
This short trail was the perfect break to stretch our legs and take in the gorgeous views before heading into Redding for dinner and an early night. After all, we did need to make it to Mountain View the next day in time to visit the Intel Museum and hit Shakedown Street before the Dead & Company concert at Shoreline Amphitheater.
About Castle Crags State Park
The crags at Castle Crags State Park are massive monoliths and towering spires that are best enjoyed from a distant vantage point where you can really see the stunning range of surrounding landforms.
More than 170 million years old, the 6,500 foot tall granite spires in the Castle Crags Wilderness border the northwestern edge of Castle Crags State Park. Depending on the time of day and the sun’s shadows, look for hidden “faces” carved by snow and ice into the granite surfaces. Precipitation freezes in the cracks and crevasses, constantly changing the crag faces.
Castle Crags State Park offers a variety of camping, picnicking, hiking, and fishing opportunities:
- There are almost 30 miles of hiking trails, including the Vista Point Trail, the Root Creek Trail, and the Crags Trail, that wind through the park and into the adjoining Castle Crags Wilderness in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The Pacific Crest Trail also passes through the park.
- Licensed anglers may catch and release trout in Castle Creek and the Sacramento River.
- There are more than 60 developed campsites and campfire programs are held in the summer.
- A day use picnic area, accessed by the famed pedestrian suspension bridge that crosses the Sacramento River, has restrooms and drinking water nearby.
- Castle Rock Mineral Spring sits on the edge of the Sacramento River within a rock-built enclosure constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s. Today it still has a sulfuric smell and bubbles up from the ground. The natural mineral waters are widely reputed to have restorative, healing, medicinal and therapeutic properties.
How The Crags Were Formed
The rocks surrounding Castle Crags are part of an oceanic plate that collided with North America several hundred million years ago. Since then, younger oceanic plates have slid down beneath the western edge of the continent and carried water deep into the Earth. This water causes hot rocks in the planet’s mantle to melt. These melts then rise towards the surface, where some erupt to form volcanoes like Mount Shasta.
About 170 million years ago, a batch of this molten rock rose, collected beneath Earth’s surface, and solidified to form the Castle Crags granite. Since then, uplift of the Klamath Mountains, combined with weathering and erosion by streams and glaciers, have exposed and sculpted the Crags.
The History Of Castle Crags State Park
The forest of Castle Crags State Park was home to the Okwanuchu Shasta people and the Crags were revered by the indigenous people surrounding them including the Wintu, Achumawi and Modoc people. But during the 1848 California Gold Rush, miners flocked to California from all over the world, invading the area and destroying the life-sustaining resources and environments of the native people.
Thousands of miners invaded the Castle Crags Wilderness when they heard false rumors of the fabled “Lost Cabin Mine.” This invasion led to the genocide, slavery, and forcible displacement of indigenous people. During the 1855 Battle of Castle Crags, Native American women, children, and infants were massacred by a mob of drunken settlers while they slept.
More than two-thirds of the native California Indian people died as a result of the conquest, which opened up the region for commercial and industrial exploitation of the land’s resources
The first company to do so was Castle Rock Water Company, also known as the Castle Rock Mineral Springs Bottling Works, which was founded in 1889 in Dunsmuir, California. The company bottled natural spring water from the mineral springs and shipped it around the world. A resort and a hotel was also established across the river from the Castle Rock Mineral Springs and people traveled from all over the nation to visit the resort and mineral springs, which were said to contain healing properties.
The company went bankrupt in the 1929 stock market crash and in 1943 the State of California purchased 925 acres of the Castle Rock Springs property to form Castle Crags State Park.
Know Before You Go
- The Castle Crags State Park entrance station is located at 20022 Castle Creek Road, Castella, California 96017, Shasta County. Take I-5 Exit 724.
- Castle Crags State Park is an excellent place to use as home base to experience Shasta and Siskiyou Counties. The park is 14 miles south of the City of Mount Shasta, 6 miles south of historic Dunsmuir, 21 miles north of Shasta Lake, and 48 miles north of Redding.
- Download the Castle Crags Brochure.
- Day use hours are from Sunrise to Sunset. Self-Registration is Required. Ranger on Patrol will verify.
- Picnic sites are located along the Sacramento River and at the awe-inspiring Vista Point.
- Castle Crags is open for camping year round. The park has 76 developed campsites that are each equipped with a picnic table, food locker, and a fire ring. Flush toilets, showers, and drinking water are available near each campsite. Quiet hours are from 10:00 pm to 8:00 am.
- Download the Castle Crags Campground Map.
- Summer and spring are warm; fall and winter can be cool. Layered clothing is advised.
- All natural and cultural features are protected by law and may not be disturbed or removed.
- Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails.
- There is a Chevron Gas Station at the freeway exit for Castle Crags.