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Rock Climbing at Castle Rock State Park

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

Location : Castle Rock State Park, Los Gatos, CA.

Parking : $10 (ample free parking on the side of the road)

Trail type : Loop

Trail Length : 5.4 miles

Elevation Gain : 1000 ft

Difficulty : Moderate

Trails traversed : Castle Rock Falls Trail > Ridge Trail > Saratoga Gap Trail > Castle Rock

What makes Castle Rock State Park unique is the sculpted sandstone formations scattered around the park, making it very popular amongst beginner and experienced rock climbers as well as adventurous hikers. With sweeping vistas, this trail runs along the highest ridge of the Santa Cruz mountains and the rock formations along the route provide opportunities to explore mysterious caverns and dark caves.

Castle Rock SP website provides an explanation for the eerie looking formations :

"Castle Rock’s famed Vaqueros sandstone originated as submarine fan deposits on the continental shelf about 30 to 40 million years ago. The deposits were elevated and moved north by repeated violent movements along the tectonic plate boundaries now defined by the San Andreas Fault. Over the eons, outcrops have eroded to form pits, pockets, honeycombs, caves, ribs, and ridges. Referred to as tafoni, these erosional patterns have endless variations. "

Trail Map

There is ample paid parking at the park entrance as well as free parking along Hwy 35. Castle Rock Falls trail starts close to the parking lot where some interesting rock formation replicas are displayed for climbing and photographing opportunities.

Continue on Castle Rock Falls trail which runs along a creek, until you reach Castle Rock Falls overlook. When we went in December of 2020, the Falls had dried down to a trickle. You may have better luck during a wet season. Castle Rock Falls Trail soon becomes Ridge Trail with sweeping views of the Santa Cruz mountains and beyond.

Ridge Trail turns into an obstacle course for a short distance where you have to squeeze your way between boulders and hang on to iron cables to move ahead.

Ridge Trail soon intersects with Saratoga Gap Trail, which slowly starts to climb uphill towards Goat Rock. Goat Rock is very popular amongst seasoned rock climbers but can also be scaled without any rock climbing gear.

Thats me atop Goat Rock!

Billygoat Rock is the next one on the trail which challenges you to try your climbing skills yet again.

Further down the trail is Skull rock which, unlike the previous two, provides ample notches in the rock for hands and feet to hold on to while climbing.

As you come towards the end of Saratoga Gap Trail and head towards the parking lot, make a quick 0.7 mile deviation to explore the namesake caves of the park. The Castle Rock caves and rock formations with their alien-like patterns will make you wonder if this is what the surface of Moon or Mars would look like.

After having explored the caves, return to Castle Rock trail which will take you all the way back to the parking lot.


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