The Crags Trail to Castle Dome is a difficult, 5.6-mile out-and-back trail in Castle Crags State Park. While the upper region of the trail is located within the Castle Crags Wilderness, it sets out from a trailhead within the state park and requires an $8 day-use fee per vehicle. The trail is open year round. Traffic on the trail is generally moderate.
Castle Crags State Park has over 30 miles of hiking trails and features a number of additional activities including fishing, rock climbing, swimming, and camping. The campground can accommodate travel trailers and motorhomes and there are a number of tent sites as well, both along the Sacramento River and in the woods. Leashed pets are welcome at the campsites but are not allowed on trails, with the exception of service dogs.
The Crags Trail features spectacular vistas looking out at Mt. Shasta, the Gray Rocks of the Klamath Mountains, and Castle Creek Canyon. The trail begins along a largely shady path forested by pine trees before climbing into granite slopes surrounded by monolithic cliffs and spires of stone. A side trail takes you to Indian Springs, where water flows down the mountainside and provides water for the campground below.
This hike is strenuous, steep, and not suitable for children.
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The Castle Crags were formed 10,000 to 12,000 years ago due to erosion during the end of the Pleistocine glaciation. Castle Dome itself was formed by the exfoliation of slabs of granite, leaving its rounded shape.
The Okwanuchu Shasta people, who were native to this area, regarded Castle Crags as sacred ground where spirits sought solace. It was also regarded as sacred by Native Americans in the surrounding areas including the Wintu, Achumawi and Modoc people. These different tribes sustained themselves in the forested areas beneath the crags on the bountiful salmon, tree nuts, berries, roots, bulbs, and greens here.
Castle Crags' history during the Gold Rush era centers on the brutal Battle of Castle Crags in 1855. This battle took place between the Modoc people and flocks of miners that had settled in the area in search of a rumored "Lost Cabin Mine." The miners, having come under attack by the Modoc for muddying the river waters with mining debris and preventing the annual salmon run, fought back and massacred the Modoc, forcing those alive into slavery and displacement.
The Castle Rock Mineral Springs Bottling Works was founded in 1889 in nearby Dunsmuir but closed in 1906 due to business deals debilitated from the San Francisco earthquake. The park was established in 1933 with the development of trails, roads, buildings, and campgrounds by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was split by the installation of Interstate 5 in 1959, but today it is comprised of almost 4,000 acres, located on both sides of the freeway.