Castle Rock State Park

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About Castle Rock State Park

With 5,500 acres of coastal redwoods, sandstone formations, caves, and sweeping vistas, Castle Rock State Park is chock-full of diverse treasures for adventurous explorers. There are 34 miles of rugged trails for hiking throughout the park; including the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail which connects to nearby Big Basin Redwoods State Park and extends to the ocean. When you're ready for a break from hiking, have a picnic in the old apple orchard at Partridge Farm, which has picnic tables and an interpretive shelter with more information about the park.



Castle Rock State Park is also a rock climber's paradise, with numerous sandstone formations and outcrops, ideal for climbing and bouldering. For those who need more time to see the sites, Castle Rock State Park has two primitive, hike-in campgrounds, the Castle Rock Trail Camp and the Waterman Gap Trail Camp. Both require a trek from the parking lot, so pack accordingly!

Campgrounds in Castle Rock

Castle Rock Trail Camp

1. Castle Rock Trail Camp

100% Recommend (3 Campers)

The Castle Rock Trail Camp offers intrepid backpackers 20 primitive sites perched on a ridge. The campground is a quick 2. 6 mile hike from the...

Alex
Alex: The higher numbered sites are all heavily wooded, you can see into one other site from some place in your campsite if you try,...
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Waterman Gap Trail Camp

2. Waterman Gap Trail Camp

For those who want to guarantee themselves a Castle Rock Campground spot after a long hike, the Waterman Gap Trail Camp in Castle Rock State Park...

37 Saves

17 Reviews

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Hipcamper Alex

The higher numbered sites are all heavily wooded, you can see into one other site from some place in your campsite if you try, but otherwise there is a good amount of privacy. Bathrooms and water access are also evenly distributed between the campground.

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Hipcamper Alex

Sites 1 and 2 are in an open space with an outhouse and faucet- definitely avoid if possible. Sites 3, 4, and 5 are all fairly secluded closer to the skyline (though trees hide the actual view)

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Hipcamper Alex

You'll probably notice on your way into camp- but the best sunset vista by far is about .3 miles before arriving at the campground. Return to the ledge after you setup camp for stunning views and a killer sunset

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Hipcamper Abby

This was an easy hike-in campsite. It had firewood, picnic tables, potable water, and restrooms. Our campsite was also fairly large and fit multiple tents comfortably.

If bringing a large pack, I recommend bringing trekking poles, as there are some parts of the hike where you have to scale some rocks and could benefit from extra balance.

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Hipcamper A
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Don’t take the old-fashioned envelope deposit fee for granted, you don’t want to have a $70 fine awaiting you after such a beautiful getaway.

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Trails close at sunset, so plan ahead and allow enough time to hike in or back to your camp.

Hipcamper A
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If you bring kids, stick with Castle Rock trails, which are a bit more doable and have great boulders to play on along the way.

Hipcamper A
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Don’t forget your camera, these views are truly breathtaking!

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Fill up on gas before the journey.

Hipcamper A
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If you’re coming Southbound, take Hwy. 9 to 35 which is safer and easier (avoid Hwy. 17 to Black Rd. to 35)

Hipcamper A
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Bring sunblock for when you get to the summits, you get way more sun than you expect when you’re shaded by redwoods.

Hipcamper Alex

If you bring cash- assuming there is no burn ban there is usually firewood available for purchase at the campsite (pretty rare for a hike-in spot).

Hipcamper Patrick

You can feel comfortable rolling the dice going here even if you can't look up it's availability -- it apparently almost never fills up.

We asked a ranger around the 4th of July, and it sounds like they've only filled up a few times over the past few years, only on holiday weekends.

Especially given the burn ban this July, the campsites were more empty than filled when we went, even on the 4th.

Hipcamper Randy

Great campsite with a very easy hike in. Open year-round. Very pretty views - overall a great place for a overnighter to escape the nearby suburbia.

There are often a number of scouting groups here, so it's not the quietest campsite. The hike in is short but there are some areas that require small rock scrambles. Be aware that during heavy rain, some of the campsites will partially flood - take care in tent location selection.

The main Castle Rock parking lot is very small and can fill up. As this is the only lot that permits overnight parking, you'll just have to wait a bit for somebody to leave and a spot to open up.

Hipcamper Suzanne

Definitely doesn't fill up and gorgeous views. Recommend sites 4, 5, 13 or 15. The wind REALLY howls depending on where you are and the shooting range is going off until around 6pm.

Hipcamper Chris

V chill spot. good privacy and water availability, as mentioned in other comments. FYI to people on bikes - you must ride in through the service entrance, which is juuust to the left of the gun range along 35. Its about... maybe a half mile before the parking lot. You don't need to go to the parking lot at all, you can pay down at the campsite. Its a sick dirt descent down, and steep climb out in the AM. enjoy.

Hipcamper Trina

any clue the cost of a fine if you don't have a backpacking permit in CA state parks?

History of Castle Rock State Park

This park is located between what once was the territory of many different tribal communities. Over thousands of years, the tribes have come to be collectively recognized as the Ohlone people. Several native camp areas in this location served the Ohlone people’s dietary and spiritual needs. Ohlone visionaries used the massive rocks to communicate with what they considered to be the spirit world and to acquire personal enlightenment. They also collected a variety of medicinal and food plants. Native people hunted deer, pronghorns and bears that were attracted to the area’s abundant vegetation. Today’s park lies within a major trail system that was used to move resources from the coast into the interior.

By 1849, thousands of immigrants had arrived in California searching for gold. The newcomers needed lumber to construct homes and buildings for new towns. The South Pacific Coast railroad built new lines for access between the Santa Cruz mountains and the Alameda port. By 1884, 28 lumber mills operated in the Big Basin/San Lorenzo Valley area; the mills yielded more than 34 million board feet of lumber each year Coast redwood made excellent lumber and Tanoak bark was used to tan leather goods. Once thick forests were rapidly laid bare.

Agriculture also altered the Castle Rock landscape for nearly 100 years. Farming, livestock, hunting, fishing and trading made it possible for area families to be self-sufficient.

Judge Joseph Welch of Santa Clara Valley purchased a 60-acre parcel on Castle Rock Ridge in 1908, when logging was still ravaging the hillsides. He established a precedent by opening his land for the public to enjoy its scenic scenic vistas and rugged landscapes. With Welches determination, Castle Rock soon became a popular tourist destination. Dr. Russell Varian secured the option to purchase the land in 1959 and planned to donate it to California State Parks. He died before completing the purchase. The Sierra Club and Sempervirens Fund later donated the land in his memory. In July of 1968, Castle Rock was designated a state park.

Wildly eroded sandstone formations create prominent ridges in the park’s canyons. A waterfall fed by natural springs cascades 100 feet down the steep mountain slopes to the San Lorenzo River. The river flowing through the park provides spawning habitat for steelhead.