The hike up Castle Peak is a short and steep. We previously snowshoed to the summit, but we headed back out there last week to check out the snow-free trail.
Trail Basics: This is definitely one of the more popular hikes in the Tahoe area. It can get crowded on a sunny summer weekend. The roundtrip distance for our route was about 6 miles with just under 2000-ft of elevation gain. Dogs are allowed on this trail.
Directions to Trailhead: From I-80, take the Boreal/Castle Peak exit and turn north. The trailhead is really the only thing on the north side of the freeway. Just follow the road to it’s end and begin hiking. Google Map link to trailhead. In the winter, parking is available along Bunny Hill Drive on the south side of I-80. Sno-Park permits are required November 1 through May 31.
Trail Description: We haven’t been hiking much lately. I wanted to get outside but I didn’t have the time or energy to plan a big expedition. On a whim, we headed up to Tahoe to hike Castle Peak. It’s a short hike and we are familiar with the area, so this one didn’t require any planning.
We parallel parked on Castle Peak Road; the trailhead gets crowded and there were already a lot of cars. After inhaling a breakfast burrito that I had avoided eating while driving, we were ready to go.
The trail starts out relatively flat as it follows Castle Peak Road. On the map, I spotted the Pacific Creat Trail paralleling the dirt road road. I told Rob “I want to hike the PCT.” He agreed and we cut cross country, through the almost-dry Upper Castle Creek and over to the PCT.
We followed the PCT through the forest for the next mile and a half. Eventually the trail climbs a short distance up to Castle Pass. From there, we could clearly see our destination. This is one of my favorite spots along the trail- nice views all around.
With the peak now in our sights, we headed up the ridge towards the summit. This part of the trail gets steep and in some places, loose.
As we climbed higher, the wind started to pick up.
The true summit can only be reached by scrambling up a rocky face (class 3), but the slightly lower outcroppings nearby are a popular destination for most hikers. By the time we reached this area, the wind was howling. We sat in a somewhat sheltered area for a few minutes- just to get a break from the wind.
I decided to keep going towards the third (furthest east) turret, which is the high point. (I’m assuming this is the high point because SummitPost claims it is, and it has a USGS benchmark. When you’re up there, it’s not obvious which one of the rocky outcroppings is higher.) We walked around until we found the easiest route up. Rob stayed out of the wind below while I quickly scrambled to the top. It was so windy I turned around an headed down after almost no time at the top.
Rob had found a sheltered spot in the rocks at the edge of a cliff near the summit. We sat there and basked in the sun for a while before retracing our steps back down off the peak.
We were back at the car in almost no time. Until next time, PCT….