Castle Rock Falls / Castle Rock (dayhike)

Trip Date: 12/4/2015

Location: Castle Rock State Park

Permit/Pass: Day use parking in the state park lot - $8.

Trail maps: CA SP mapOld SP map

Directions: From Hwy 85 near Cupertino CA. take the Saratoga Ave. exit south to the small town of Saratoga. Continue straight through the town as Saratoga Ave. turns into CA-9 (also Big Basin Way). Continue south, the west, on windy CA-9 as it climbs to a junction with CA-35. Turn left and go 2.6 miles to a right turn into the small parking lot for Castle Rock State Park. If the lot is full, there is free parking on the road just outside the entrance. The trailhead for this hike is at the far, west corner of the parking lot. 

Synopsis: Taking this hike on a warm day gives you a cool, shady walk under substantial tree canopy. If these conditions happen to follow some good rains you get to enjoy Castle Rock falls from the deck above. On the return trip a visit to Castle Rock itself ends this short trip with a fun stop.

Trail sequence: Saratoga Gap Trail / Castle Rock Trail / Service road / parking lot connector trail

Type: Balloon loop

Distance: 2.3 miles

Elevation: Min. - 2608', Max. - 3136'

Rating: Easy (factors: dark, damp under canopy)

Notes: Unlike most hikes this is a downhill first, then climb on the return trip. It's short, but the hike back will still tax anyone who's out of shape.

Track: Castle Rock Falls / Castle Rock - Castle Rock SP

Turn by Turn:

  -- Pick up the Saratoga Gap trail at the southwest corner of the parking lot. You immediately begin a mostly gentle descent to the west alongside a shaded, green stream-bed.

  -- Pass the Castle Rock trail on the left a few tenths of a mile into the walk and continue west down the canyon.

  -- After a little over a half-mile you turn to cross the stream and meet a junction of trail on the other side. Continue on the Saratoga Gap trail toward the Castle Rock Falls overlook.

  -- The overlook is a nice place for a break or a bit and a bit of open sky. When done, head back to the junction and turn right to cross the stream again and head back up the Saratoga Gap Trail.

  -- Upon reaching the junction with the Castle Rock trail, turn right (south) and follow the path as it circles and climbs up to the eponymous landmark.

  -- To loop back to the parking lot, follow the service road on the east side of the rock for a short distance until you see the parking lot connector trail leaving on the left (north) side of the road. Take this little trail and head back down to a return to your car.