By starting near the high point of Donner Pass, this high summit is a relatively easy objective and a surprisingly short outing. Don't be fooled by the first mile though - the top section gets much steeper and rockier.
You can make this run longer and prettier by using the PCT: Highway 80 to Highway 49 (near Sierra City)
trail and bypass the Castle Valley Road
Alternatively, if you have a high-clearance vehicle, you can drive a portion of the Castle Valley Road
and shorten this run a bit.
From exit 176 on the freeway, park on the north side of the highway at the Castle Valley Road parking area (or, with high clearance, drive about a mile up the road and save yourself a little bit). Start your run on the Castle Valley Road
, and as you ascend the gradual dirt road, pass the Hole In The Ground Trail
to the left (last good parking area). The trail steepens and climbs higher to intersect with the PCT: Highway 80 to Highway 49 (near Sierra City)
at Castle Pass.
From the busy intersection, start right up the west ridge of Castle Peak, where you'll transition to the Castle Peak Trail
. Trees diminish and the views get grand, both of this peak and the entire region. A steep and rocky scramble gets you to the final summit, with 360-degree views. On clear days, you can see Mount Diablo in the bay area, the snow-covered Lassen Peak way to the north, and all the mountains that ring Lake Tahoe.
Once you've enjoyed the views provided at the top, head back down the way that you came to return to the parking area, and your vehicle.