Climbing Destination Guide: Castle Rock State Park

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Castle Rock State Park

The Santa Cruz mountains in Northern California are the home to some of the most beautiful and unique sandstone formations, which are host to over 300 climbs. Castle Rock’s diverse landscape provides a great combination of lively forest and ridges with breathtaking views. Getting to the climbs of your choosing will take you no more than 20 minutes and the majority are within a 5-minute walk of the parking lot.

The climbing community at Castle Rock is amazing. People are supportive of each other and want to keep the area accessible to climbers of all skill levels. Castle Rock is truly one of California’s hidden climbing gems and the former stomping grounds of the legendary Chris Sharma.

Specific description of climbing style

If you are looking to do some bouldering, the endless list of problems at Castle Rock will bring you tears of happiness. It is almost impossible to not find a boulder that fits your style or skill level.

The Magoos are home to some of the classic problems in the park and will give you the proper Castle Rock experience. Although bouldering is the main focus, there are a fair number of sport routes in the park. Sport routes vary from slabby and technical to powerful roof climbs. The sheer variety of rock features makes the park a climber’s playground. Want to climb slabs? You got it. Aretes? You got it. Problems with sloping dynos? You got it.

Best season

There are few bad times to go climbing at Castle Rock.

In the winter months, the weather warms up into the mid-50s by noon, allowing for some good climbing as long as you layer up. During the summer the forest provides ample shade to keep it cooler and block the sun from beaming down on you while you climb.

An important thing to know is that climbing is strongly discouraged after it rains because the sandstone becomes very fragile. To preserve the rock, give it a few days to dry out before going back to sending routes.

Climbing grade range

The range in bouldering grades is large. You will find everything from V0 to V12. For sport routes, you will find a hand full in the 5.8-5.9 range, but most are 5.10 and up.

With the exception of a few, most routes are pretty true to grade. Overall, Castle Rock’s grading doesn’t seem like it overly leans soft or stiff.

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Top climbs in the area

  • Eco-Terrorist (V10): This is a true classic at Castle Rock. You start off in a small hueco and make a few big moves on slopers over the lip to a jug finish.
  • Sharma Arete (V9): Put up by Sharma himself, the route’s name explains it all. Probably one of the better aretes in the park.
  • Hueco Slap (V4): A fun problem in the classic Magoos. Start on a big jug and slap your way up the arete to the top.
  • Mullah (5.10b): One of the most scenic climbs in the park. Start out climbing a hueco filled roof and finish with solid face climbing to the top.
  • Chlamydia (5.11d): If you want a true test of finger strength and balance, this steep slab climb is for you.
  • Any route on The Underworld Rock (5.9-5.11b); The Underworld is by far my favorite sport climbing spot. The rock quality is awesome and there is a variety of grades. You could spend an entire day climbing all the routes on the rock and have a blast doing so.

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Best local spots

After a day at the crag, head down scenic Skyline Blvd. for some solid comfort food and a drink at Alice’s. Once you have finished refueling from a long day of cragging, you can pitch a tent at Sandborne County Park, which is only a short drive from Castle Rock.

If you are wanting something a little more luxurious you can stay in the nearby town of Saratoga or Los Gatos.

Where to stay

If you are willing to bring some backpacking gear, take the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail a ways and set up camp a few miles down trail for a night away from the crowds.

Best kept secret

There really are few secrets when it comes to the park. With how popular the park is with climbers, there are very few boulders that have gone untouched.

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Now to you

These destination guides are only made possible through the feedback from climbers like yourself. Are we missing some beta? Have anything extra to share? Leave your feedback in the comments below.

Have your own destination beta? Submit a destination today.


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  • halleujah65

    Sanborn is better. If the rangers would allow the valley of stone to be opened up, castle rock would be a world class spot.