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scenic viewpoint at Castle Rock State Park overlooking trees

Majestic redwoods, grass covered hills, and sculpted sandstone surround Castle Rock State Park 19 miles north of Santa Cruz. This stunning 5,242 acre area lies within the Santa Cruz Mountains near the Santa Clara and San Lorenzo valleys.

This picturesque area attracts visitors with opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, camping, picnicking, birdwatching, and more. The park’s extensive trail system connects to nearby Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Activities

Spend a few days in the mountains breathing in the fresh air, taking in the majestic landscape, and appreciating the peacefulness. Experience this scenic California state park up close as you explore trails through the ancient redwoods and impressive sandstone cliffs. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and grab your binoculars before heading out.

Here are some more activities that you can do during your visit to Castle Rock State Park:

Rock Climbing at Castle Rock State Park

Not surprisingly, Castle Rock State Park is a popular destination for rock climbing enthusiasts. The sculpted Vaqueros sandstone outcroppings have been attracting climbers for almost one hundred years. The rock’s hard exterior and unique shapes allow for both climbing and bouldering. And the surrounding views are quite impressive the further up you climb.

Remember, if you plan to climb, be sure to abide by the park’s “Leave No Trace” practices. It’s important that everyone do their part to help preserve this scenic area for all to enjoy.

rock climbing spot at Castle Rock State Park

Hiking at Castle Rock State Park

Castle Rock State Park features 34 miles of trails that wind through ancient redwoods, wildflower grasslands, and steep canyons. These trails are part of a regional trail system that connects to the San Francisco Bay Area and the Santa Cruz coast.

Here are a couple of the trails at Castle Rock State Park:

  • Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail – This moderate trail extends for 33 miles from Castle Rock to Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
  • Saratoga Gap and Ridge Trail Loop – A moderate 5.6 mile trail that winds along a steep open hillside near Castle Rock Falls on its way out to Russell Point Overlook and Goat Rock Overlook. Both overlooks provide breathtaking views of the San Lorenzo Valley and the Pacific Ocean.

Biking at Castle Rock State Park

Guests may ride along the Skyline Trail and the Campground Service Road Trail, both located near Hwy 35 just north of the park’s main entrance. Bicycles are not permitted on any other trails or beyond the Castle Rock Trail Camp.

Horseback Riding at Castle Rock State Park

Guests with their own horses may enjoy riding along the old Saratoga Toll Road during their visit to Castle Rock State Park. This equestrian friendly trail, once a logging and stagecoach road, winds through the ancient woodlands from Saratoga Gap to Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

moss-covered tree in the woods at Castle Rock State Park

Birding at Castle Rock State Park

There are many optimal bird watching spots throughout Castle Rock State Park. One location, Summit Meadows, offers stunning views above the San Lorenzo River. Another prime location is the Emily Smith Observation Point.

Here and throughout the park look for Pileated Woodpeckers, Cassin’s Vireos, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Sage Sparrows, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Western Tanagers, Winter Wrens, Peregrine Falcons, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Scrub Jays.

Nature and Wildlife at Castle Rock State Park

Stunning Castle Rock State Park was once a booming agricultural area full of farms and fruit and nut orchards. Some of these early 1900 heritage trees are still bearing fruit to this day. Now surrounded by a mixed evergreen forest, riparian woodland and hills of wildflower dotted grasslands.

Today’s visitors may see a variety of wildlife within this area, including Black-tailed Deer, Gray Foxes, coyotes, birds, snakes, lizards, and Mountain Lions.

Pets

Please make other arrangements before visiting; pets are not allowed inside Castle Rock State Park. Service animals are not considered pets.

Camping

Castle Rock State Park features primitive campsites divided between two trail camping areas, Castle Rock and Waterman Gap.

Castle Rock Trail Camp is located along a ridge on the Saratoga Gap Trail about 2.6 miles from the main parking lot. This camping area has 20 first-come, first-serve campsites, each with a picnic table and fire ring and access to drinking water and vault toilets. A protective shelter is available nearby.

The Waterman Gap Trail Camp has 6 primitive campsites and a vault toilet. These sites may be accessed via the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, a 9.3 mile hike in from the park’s main entrance and car park. Reservations are required for these 6 campsites.

Park Location

Castle Rock State Park
15451 CA-35
Los Gatos, CA 95033
Phone: 408.868.9540

Park Website
Reservations

Map

Video

Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Castle Rock State Park: