Length: 5.4 miles round trip
High Point: 4800 feet
Elevation Gain: 2200 feet
When to Hike: early April to mid-November
Controlling Agency: Castle Crags State Park, P.O. Box 80, Castella, CA 96017; (530) 235-2684; www.parks.ca.gov
Special Features: stunning views of Mount Shasta; steep granite; vigorous workout; verdant Indian Springs
Directions to the Trailhead: Take the Castella exit off I-5 about 6 miles south of Dunsmuir. Go west and enter Castle Crags State Park (entrance fee). Follow the main road 1.3 miles through the park to the vista point.
Description and Comments: The trail begins 150 feet down the road from the vista point. Start walking level through a mixed forest that will be with you for much of the hike. Bear left at a trail fork at .2 mile. Briefly join the Pacific Crest Trail at .5 mile and then turn right at another fork. Go right again at 1 mile and then climb steadily. At 2 miles a side trail to the left leads a quarter mile to shady Indian Springs, an ecologically sensitive area that is the hike’s only sure source of water.
The main path continues upward, soon leaving the forest behind and guiding you into spectacular open scenery. The base of Castle Dome awaits 2.7 miles into the journey. This is a great spot to soak in Mount Shasta and Castle Crags. Mountain climbers with the proper equipment and expertise can attempt a climb of Castle Dome itself.
Maps: USGS 7.5′ Dunsmuir; USFS Castle Crags Wilderness.
Photo by John Soares from 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California, third edition, http://www.NorthernCaliforniaHikingTrails.com