The Castle Dome Trail is one of Castle Crags State Park’s best hikes. This trail is short but intense, with plenty of elevation gain rewarded with incredible views of the Castle Crags and Mount Shasta in the distance. If there’s only one hike you do in this state park, make it this one!
Castle Dome Trail in a nutshell
Castle Dome Trail key information
Trailhead: Vista Point in Castle Crags State Park
Hike End: Vista Point in Castle Crags State Park
Hike Type: Out & back
Length: 5.9 mi / 9.5 km (including 0.4 mile detour to Indian Springs)
Time: 3-4 hours
Ascent: 2200 ft / 670 m
Difficulty: Intermediate – it’s nothing too technically challenging, but there’s quite a bit of elevation gain!
How to get to the Vista Point Trailhead
The amazing thing about Castle Crags State Park is that it is RIGHT off the I5. Exit at Castle Creek Road / Exit 724 and enter Castle Crags State Park. After paying the $8 entrance fee (cards accepted), continue on the road towards Vista Point and the campground. Drive through the campground until you reach the road’s end at Vista Point.
There are about 30 parking spaces. On weekends, I recommend arriving before 10am to make sure you get a spot! From there, walk downhill for just a minute until you see the Crags Trail sign.
Trail Guide: My experience hiking the Castle Dome Trail
I drove up from the Bay Area and arrived at the Vista Point trailhead at 9:30 am. I left at 9:50 and walked down to the Crags Trail sign, which is where the trail begins. The route starts off flat and in the forest. You’ll go for about 15 minutes before reaching another sign and fork in the trail. You’ll continue up along the Crags trail (to the left) and you’ll start going up switchbacks.
The switchbacks aren’t bad and save you from hiking anything steep—that comes later! You’ll be walking on a compact dirt trail, so there’s no technical difficulty here. Just look out for the occasional root!
You’ll reach a signpost, which is where you can turn left to go towards Indian Springs. If you choose to hike to Indian Springs, put some DEET on (at least in the summer months!) at this fork in the road. I didn’t have any problems with mosquitos until reaching the Indian Springs trail, which had MANY mosquitos.
Indian Springs is worth the detour; not because the Springs are anything special, but because the views on the way over to the springs are amazing. You get your first glimpse of the Castle Crags above you and the forest trail opens up to reveal an expansive view over the trees.
Once you’ve turned back to the fork in the road, continue up the Crags Trail towards Castle Dome. The trail starts getting steeper and will eventually turn into granite, which makes the trail slightly more technical.
You’ll get incredible views of Castle Dome and Mt Shasta from this section of the trail, though, so the extra effort is worth it 😀 This is also where the shade coverage from the trees starts to disappear, so make sure you pack a hat or plenty of sunscreen.
When the trail opens up to a clearing and the uphill section levels out a little, you’re close to the end of the trail! There’s a lot of brush and greenery here, so the trail can get a little tricky to find. If you ever find yourself turned around, look out for arrows signposted on trees or white ribbons tied to bushes and trees. They’ll tell you you’re on the right path.
When you see the sign that says ‘Trail End,’ turn to the right. There’s a smaller trail that takes you closer to Castle Dome and there’s an INCREDIBLE viewpoint where you can see Mt Shasta. You’ll know you’re at the viewpoint when you see the safety cables to stop you from venturing into dangerous, exposed territory.
I stopped and had a snack here, taking in the beauty around me. After two parties of hikers left, I had the viewpoint to myself and spent around 30 minutes looking at the view, taking photos, and rehydrating. It was about 90 degrees F in the sun, so I definitely wanted to take a rest!
This trail is an out and back trail, so once you’ve had your fill of the view, head back the way you came! I have weaker ankles and knees, so the way down was harder than the way up for me. 45 minutes later, when I was back at the Vista Point Trailhead, I was pooped!
I sat in the air conditioning of the car for about 10 minutes, then drove to the ranger station to get my tag for camping.
Watch me hike this trail!
I highly recommend hiking the Castle Dome Trail. The short but steep trail requires a fair bit of effort, but the views at the top are incredible. You’re surrounded by the Castle Crags, but the viewpoint at the top opens up to give you the most perfect view of Mount Shasta. You could easily do this hike when passing by the park on I5, or do as I did, and make a weekend out of it!