Hiking Castle Peak, Lake Tahoe
I checked peak number 10 off of my list this past weekend on my quest to bag 15 peaks by the end of the year, Castle Peak! It was definitely one that I had to work for and am still feeling it four days later, but it was so worth it. If you are looking for a challenging but rewarding hike, this one is for you! Not only is the view amazing, but the peak itself is one of the most unusual peaks that I have been on. It was formed from an old volcano and the turrets on top of the peak are crazy interesting. There are so many places that you can climb around that even on a really busy day, you could still feel like you have part of the peak all to yourself.
I headed out around 11:00 with my two friends to drive to the trailhead. To get there, take I-80 to the Boreal/Castle Peak exit. Once you are off the freeway, take the road East that follows along the side of the highway (away from Boreal Ski Area). After less than a mile, you will dead-end at the trailhead. Park here and the trail starts on the East side of the parking lot. You will be alongside the highway for a bit, pass some informative signs (one pictured below), go past a lake, through a cool meadow, and then under the highway.
Shortly after going under the highway, you will come to a four way intersection, go straight to stay on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). You will soon pass another small lake next to the highway. We passed some hikers at this point who had parked off of the highway next to the lake. I am not sure what exit this is, but I believe it is Donner Pass Road. If you park here, you will shave a little over 3 miles off of the otherwise 10 mile roundtrip. The next intersection will be another four way. Continue straight through to stay on the PCT.
Shortly after, you will come to a three way intersection. Take a right and you will be looking at Castle Peak. At this point, you have less than a mile left, but it is steep.
Be careful as you are making the ascent, but more so, when you are making the descent back down! My friend slipped on loose rocks/dirt and fell three times on the way down. You definitely don’t want to end up on your butt! Once you reach the top, have fun climbing on the turrets and taking in the view. Be careful not to step too close to the edge though, as you are basically on top of a huge cliff.
Castle Peak – 9,103′
- Total Distance: 10 miles
- Total Elevation Gain: 2,000 vertical feet
- Pros: Beautiful and interesting geological features with amazing views. Lots of room up top, so you feel like you are alone.
- Cons: Traffic! For about 6 miles total on this hike you can hear cars from one of the busiest interstates in America. I hike to get out into nature, not feel like I am walking on a highway. This really bummed me out.