This is a loop, with the trail camp 2.5 miles from the parking lot. One side of the loop is a dramatic trail along the side of the ridge. with views out to the ocean on good days. Our Scouts call it the Cliff Trail, but its official name is the Saratoga Gap Trail. The other half of the loop goes through a woods along the top of the ridge, the Ridge Trail. The elevation gain/loss for the full loop is about 1200 feet.
Why Go Here?
The hike is lovely. You’ll see lots of day hikers. With 25 camp sites, it rarely fills up. This is also one of the few trail camps where a campfire is allowed, only in rainy season, of course.
You will hear a few loud motorcycles on Skyline Boulevard, and the nearby gun range is active until 4 or 5 PM. Also, watch out for poison oak, it is very common near the trail camp.
Reservations and Planning
Parking is $10 and you need exact change. Bring it, because the ranger kiosk is usually not staffed. The parking lot fills up, so plan to start your hike early.
Campsites are $15 per night with an $8 processing fee. For two sites and a group of 13 or more, there is a flat fee of $25.
Reservations can be made 60 days in advance, online.
15 of the 20 campsites are available by reservation only as part of the Santa Cruz Mountains Backcountry Trail Camp System. Five campsites are available first come, first served. This is a change from before, when all sites were first come, first served. See the reservations page below for details.
Links and Resources
- Official park page: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=538
- Park brochure and campground map: https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/538/files/CastleRockCGmap.pdf
- Redwood Hikes on the Castle Rock Trail Camp: Castle Rock Trail Camp
- Santa Cruz Mountains Backcountry Trail Camps reservations: Santa Cruz Mountains Backcountry Trail Camps
- Guide to the camps: https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/540/files/
- A trip to Castle Rock trail camp in January 2012: Castle Rock, January 2012 | Flickr
- Older blog post about Castle Rock: Castle Rock State Park – Short Backpack Outings for Scouts | Most Casual Observer