The trail to Castle Rock is short, but highly rewarding. It offers panoramic views of Lake Tahoe, the south shore of Lake Tahoe, the western shore of Lake Tahoe with Desolation Wilderness in the far background, as well as some glimpses into the Carson Valley. Many people love this trail because it also includes some Class 3 scrambling at Castle Rock’s peak. A cherry on top, if you will, for more adventurous souls. And thanks to its prominent western views and short distance, hiking to Castle Rock makes for an incredible sunset adventure.
Trail Data (approximations):
- Location: East Tahoe – Kingsbury Grade
- Category of Route: Family Fun Hike, Day Hike
- Total Mileage: 2.25 miles
- Total Elevation Gain: 525 feet
- Highest Point: 7,917 feet
- Trail: Hard-packed soil with some rock scrambling
- Do not travel or climb beyond your skill and fitness level
- If you plan to travel to Castle Peak for the sunset, remember to bring a headlamp (or other light source) for the hike back to your vehicle
- Adhere to all Leave No Trace principles
- There are few trail signs and markers on public lands in the Tahoe region, so unless there are tracks to follow, the correct route may be difficult to identify–when in doubt, turn back
- Be prepared for inclement weather and carry plenty of warm clothes, food, and water
- Leave an itinerary of your plans with someone who’ll call emergency services if you don’t return by your prescribed time
- Dogs are allowed, but keep them on leash and pick up after them
As with many trails at Lake Tahoe, finding the trailhead (and where to park) can be the most challenging aspect of the route. Castle Rock is an example of this situation because unless you knew exactly where to go, you’d probably never know it existed. That said, here is how to find the Castle Rock trailhead… From South Lake Tahoe, go east of Stateline and drive up Kingsbury Grade (State Route 207). Before you reach the top of Daggett Summit, go north on North Benjamin Drive, then continue along that road (which turns into Andria Drive) for about a mile and a half. At the end of Andria Drive you will find a larger dirt turnout and many more parking spaces. There will also be an official trailhead with a message board and maps and information about the Tahoe Rim Trail. Park near the trailhead, but walk back down the road approximately one hundred meters until you reach the green Forest Service gate. This is the beginning of the most direct route to Castle Rock and this is where you’ll begin your travels today. I’ll post a blog about the other route (via the trailhead at the message board) another day.
Here’s a map to assist you in finding the parking area for accessing Castle Rock.
Travel beyond the gate down the dirt road. Shortly, you will connect with a single-track trail that veers right and contours the side of a hill. Continue along the trail until you link up with the Tahoe Rim Trail. Hike north on the Tahoe Rim Trail until you find a side trail that leads off to the left. There should be a signpost at this junction featuring a small orange disc with a white arrow and the words “Castle Rock Trail” printed on it. I say should be, but don’t quote me on that. The winters can be punishing at Lake Tahoe and trail signs often are damaged or lost altogether. Either way, there should be a signpost indicating, in some way, a trail leading to Castle Rock. This trail will ascend and follow a standard footpath through rocks. However, toward the top you will have to do some Class 3 scrambling (exposure and the use of handholds to climb up) in order to reach the actual peak. You do not need to reach the actual top if the route appears dangerous to you. Remember the summit is optional, but the descent is mandatory. Definitely keep a close watch over your younger children along this hike as there are some sections, especially closer to Castle Rock, that could be tripping and falling hazards.
This view of Castle Rock is actually seen from a point on another trail, about a half mile from the official trailhead (with message board). On the route featured today, you will not actually see Castle Rock until you are on top of it., but this gives you an idea as to what you are heading toward. In the background is a view of the snowy west shore of Lake Tahoe.
Here is a poster I designed based on the view from Castle Rock. I adjusted the image’s color palette to give it a vintage, old timey, or even a western-type of look to it. You can order different styles of prints and posters of this image at my Redbubble account (Tahoe Swag collection). Thanks for your support!