Photo: Cody Markhart/Shutterstock

Climbing Guide to Castle Crags

Climb 1,000-foot walls, domes, and granite spires in this Northern California adventure wonderland.

Castle Crags State Park has it all: Yosemite-like granite, pristine mountain views, and routes up to 1,000 feet long—all just 2 hours from Medford, Ore. For a southern Oregon trad climber, there’s no better place to practice your skills.

It’s also hard to beat the setting. Much of the land—historically the home of the Okwanuchu, Shasta, and Wintu peoples—is deeply forested, the ridge crowned by a silvery granite monolith. The monolith’s unique, crenelated silhouette is a product of the region’s geology: The rock here was forged underground more than 170 million years ago. The result was a mass of solidified magma then eroded into the toothy spires you see today.

Another benefit of all those geological forces? Dozens of climbable routes in a vast array of styles—from continuous cracks to friction slab to endless vertical face climbing. 

Recommended Climbs

There are over 60 established routes in the Castle Crags area. Here are just a few of the classics.

Cosmic Wall (5.6R, 6 pitches)

Though protection can be sparse here, the Cosmic Wall offers the easiest route to the top of Mount Hubris. Follow a series of corners, ramps, and slabs to the top.

Six-Toe Crack (5.8+, 2 pitches)

Fun climbing, high-quality rock, and great gear placements make this two-pitch crack system a must-do for leaders of all ability levels. The only catch? There’s a short off-width section; bring at least one #4.

 

The Dike Route (5.10d, 8 pitches)

Over a thousand feet long and of stunningly high quality, the Dike Route ascends the full east face of Castle Dome. You’ll find decent protection around the cruxes but some run-out terrain on the more moderate pitches, making this route suitable for experienced leaders.

Seasons

The popular walls at Castle Crags are all south-facing and therefore get plenty of sun. They tend to melt out by early May and stay free of snow into October.

Spring

While snow flurries are possible in early spring, May is typically a great time to visit Castle Crags. Expect to encounter mild temperatures, plenty of sun, and blooming wildflowers.

Summer

Warm weather brings the crowds—and leaves the south-facing rock frying pan-hot. If you do visit during July or August, start early, stick to shorter routes, and bring plenty of water.

Fall

September and October are among the best months to visit the park. Just keep an eye on the nightly lows if you plan to camp; at high elevation, a warm sleeping bag is a must.

Getting There

Castle Crags State Park is just off Interstate 5, south of Dunsmuir, Calif., about an hour and a half from Medford and a little over 4 hours from the Bay Area.

The good news? All the climbing offers gorgeous views and a remote, wilderness feel. The bad news? It comes with a price: a 2.5-mile, straight-uphill approach. To start, park at Vista Point. Then take the Root Creek and Crag trails toward Castle Dome. Be sure to budget at least 2 hours for the hike in.

Camping

No need to commute to the crag: You can camp for free right at the base of the walls. While the approach trail starts in the state park, the routes themselves lie within the Castle Crags Wilderness—part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, where dispersed camping is allowed. The only con: You’ll have to fill up water at Indian Springs and hike it into camp yourself. Fires are generally prohibited, and leave-no-trace ethics apply.

If you prefer to camp near showers and toilets, the state park also offers 76 developed campsites, which are open year-round. You can reserve a campsite online up to six months in advance. Aim for the Main Campground, which is closest to the approach trail.

Rest-Day Activities

Arms need a break? Consider bringing a rod and reel and casting a line in the Sacramento River, or going for a hike. The park boasts 28 miles of trail, including a portion of the famously scenic Pacific Crest Trail. One must-do: Hike the short, quarter-mile trail from Vista Point for unparalleled views of snowy Mount Shasta to the north.  

More Info

Visit parks.ca.gov or castlecragspark.org 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.

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