Castle Peak Loop

HARD 2 reviews
#140 of 144 trails in

Castle Peak Loop is a 8.7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Donner, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
8.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,086 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dog friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

walking

forest

lake

views

rocky

snow

15 days ago

Beautiful, challenging trail. Dangerous in one part.

I recommend starting this like Frog Lake Overlook Trail. Ie — Pick up the PCT at the campground on the south side of hwy 80 at the castle peak exit (bunny hill drive). Follow this under the 80 and pick up the summit lake trail. This first section is VERY picturesque — a nice start to the hike. And the entire hike to Frog Lake overlook is superb. God trail, good coverage, great views. Frog lake overlook is quite breathtaking.

Then you traverse to Castle Peak. Pretty easy even though the trail is NOT moderately trafficked. Hard to follow in many places — but the ridge-line is there as a guide and the terrain is easy going.

BUT THEN you hit the big rocky step that goes up to castle peak where the three towers are — and the trail disappeared for me. This area is DANGEROUS from my POV. The rock is very steep and crumbly. There are numerous areas that might be the trail — many lead to sketchy or exposed (small) climbs — and some of these just dead-end causing back tracks. I was “on” the GPS trail — but it wasn’t there. Just scary cliffs, climbs and dead-ends.

I eventually scrambled off “trail” down about 100 feet and around some of the worst parts — and then hunted and pecked my way back up to the plateau.

From there smooth sailing. The easternmost tower is climbable from the east face (exposed class 4 climb about 50 feet). Middle tower is easy to climb right up the center. All views are impressive. Tops of the towers very exhilarating.

The walk down is pretty — but very little cover and loose footing at places from heavy traffic. To extend the hike a bit, link up with “hole in the ground” trail before joining the last part of the Castle Peak return. Then walk down and under hwy 80 in the road and follow bunny hill drive to the campground.

hiking
30 days ago

once on top of castle peak there is no trail that I could find. I had my phone GPS and Garmin Fenix GPS and while they indicated I was "on the trail" there were several points where the "the trail" was a cliff! there was a lot of snow on the backside of the peak so its possible the trail was on the backside buried but I couldn't find it and had a harrowing experience backtracking.