Place Name: Nevada County
Place Description: State: California
Elevation: 9,103 Feet
Prominence: 1,343 Feet
Elevation Gain: 1,528 Feet
Lists: Tahoe-Ogul, Sierra Sampler, Sierra Peaks Section, Western States Climbers Emblem
Easy Hike With A True Class 3 Summit
Castle Peak is easily spotted along interstate 80 west of Truckee. The three volcanic turrets look like nothing else in the area. There is an easy trail to the west turret, however, the eastern turret holds the benchmark and high point and requires a formidable class 3 climb.
- Short trail
- Very good road access
- Close to many bonus peaks
- Exposed class 3 climb
- Busy trail
- Holds snow into June
There is no mistaking Castle Peak while driving along Interstate 80. The three volcanic plugs remaining from an ancient era make up what appears to be a castle with three turrets. The far western turret receives the most visitation as the trail ends there, however, the eastern turret holds the true high point and requires a class 3 climb to summit.
Getting to Castle Peak is very easy. Take the exit from 80 that is signed Castle Peak and the Pacific Crest Trail. Most people only drive up a little ways on the forest road and start hiking from here.
If you have a little clearance you can drive in a few miles further and park just under the saddle between Castle Peak and Andesite Peak. The road does not require 4×4.
From the end of the road, the hike to gain the saddle between Andesite Peak and Castle Peak is very quick. The PCT runs through here and drops down into the meadows below.
To get to Castle, make a right and head uphill towards the volcanic spires. The trail winds all the way up to the false summit and is very easy to follow. There is an offshoot that dips to the left of the peak and bypasses the summit area. You would use this if you were just heading over to Basin Peak.
After gaining the false summit, drop down to a use trail on the south side of the mountain and follow it to the third turret and setup at the southeast side.
Castle Peak’s east turret is a true class 3 climb. It’s west side can be climbed with some class 3/4 climbing while the southeast side is the main route.
Climbing around 50 feet of solid rock will gain the summit. The holds are exceptional and nothing was crumbly. There are some ledges that can give you some relief as well.
Personally I hate these type of climbs and this is the longest class 3 climb I have done to date. While it made me nervous, others in my group love this stuff and made quick work of the climb.
The Final Word
Castle Peak is a classic Tahoe area peak and one that every peak bagger should check out, however, most people seem to stop at the false summit. The peak sits on any lists including the coveted Tahoe Ogul List. For a little extra effort, Basin Peak and Andesite Peak can be added on to make it a three peak day.