All the trails we hike have unique features, but the Castle Peak Hiking Trail was truly special. From a quiet walk through the forest, to the 360-degree view at the peaks, this trail has something for every level of outdoor enthusiast.
Castle Peak Trail sits about 45 minutes North East of Auburn in a little town called Soda Springs. A scenic trip East on I-80 is all it takes.
Let’s talk distance. We initially thought the trail from parking to peak was around 3 miles round trip. Guess what? We were wrong. Again. From the parking area of Castle Peak trail to the summit is approximately 4 miles. The first ~2 miles lead you into Tahoe National Forest, and eventually comes to a junction where the more adventurous type can hop on the world famous PCT. If you continue up Castle Peak, be prepared for some challenging terrain.
Castle Peak is child and pet friendly, but caution should be used on difficult terrain and loose rock. Between September and June, hikers can expect to see snow on the mountain, and winter months will definitely require snow shoes. We went in June and had to periodically maneuver over snow, but nothing deeper than ~1ft.
If you’re up to the challenge of climbing Castle Peak, the reward is definitely worth it. When you make it to the top, you’ll be presented with jaw-dropping, panoramic views.
Arriving early to mid-morning is ideal for avoiding harsh winds at the summit. But, use caution on the way down. As temperatures increase and snow melts, certain spots can become difficult to traverse. Loose rock doesn’t care how physically fit you are.
Distance: Parking to peak round trip is ~8 miles.
Difficulty: On a scale of easy to hard, we’d rate this trail hard. The difficulty comes from elevation change and treacherous terrain. Hikers with small children and pets should use caution.
Parking for Castle Peak is just off exit 176 Eastbound on I-80. This is the Boreal Ski Resort exit and has signs for Castle Peak; so it’s hard to miss. Once you exit the interstate, go left under the bridge and follow that road as it veers right. In less than 1 minute, you’ll arrive at a gate leading to Castle Peak trailhead.
Parking is free, but tends to fill up quickly as the day progresses.