Gaze up at the imposing granite ramparts at the heart of Castle Crags State Park, and it’s easy to understand why centuries of the region’s Native Americans revered these pinnacles as sacred places. Here, less than an hour’s drive north of Redding on Interstate 5, you’re looking at formations more than 170 million years old, a snaggle-toothed mass of rock sculpted by erosion and time. It’s a spectacular site, with the tallest spires soaring 6,500 feet high—yet surprisingly accessible on well-maintained trails. Stroll the short, easy trail to Vista Point, which offers an epic panorama of the crags and Mount Shasta, the 14,179-foot snow-capped volcano roughly 30 miles north. Or for more of an adventure, follow Crags Trail, which climbs to the base of 4,996-foot Castle Dome and more epic views.
The dramatic skyline formed by the crags make the park a popular spot to stay overnight: 76 campsites with potable water and showers make taking in the views at both dusk and dawn possible. Picnic sites with grills are located along the Sacramento River, which flows through the park, and at Vista Point. Those who fish just might be able to catch their lunch in the river; striped bass, sturgeon, steelhead, and trout are all plentiful. Head out on your own, or if passing through, book a trip with Dave Jacobs’ Professional Guide Service, all equipment included.
Know before you go: If you’re planning on doing lots of exploring in Shasta and Siskiyou counties, the park’s location (14 miles south of the city of Shasta, 6 miles south of Dunsmuir, and 21 miles north of Shasta Lake) makes it a great home base. Dogs are not allowed on trails within Castle Crags State Park.