Castle Rock SP Climbing


On the eastern edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just uphill from Saratoga and about 25 miles due north of Santa Cruz, lies the 5,200-acre Castle Rock State Park, a climbing and hiking destination with 35 miles of trails over diverse terrain that will make the naturalist’s heart sing.

It features Pacific Ocean mountaintop views from Goat Rock Overlook and hiking along the San Lorenzo River, but crawling up and over rock is what you’ll see and want to do here.

Moms, dads, children, friends—babies even!—congregate around the park’s various accessible climbing outcrops of stone that quicken the hearts of climbers from all over the Bay Area.

And since many of the prime climbing locales border the park’s most popular and easily-accessible trails, you’ll be participating in body-over-stone one way or another when you visit—as a viewer sharing in the vicarious thrill or as a body clinging to, and contorting in, on and over, rock.


The park’s numerous stone outcrops, or “bosses,” as geologists know them, are made of large-grained sand glued together by calcium carbonate into what’s known as Vaqueros sandstone.

The stone features a hard crust perfect for climbing and is so approachable you might find yourself, or your inner 7-year-old, exclaiming “I’m so climbing that” even if you have no climbing gear, experience or pre-existing interest. And lucky for you, whether you’re 7 or 54, a novice or an amateur looking to boulder, a kid (or one at heart) looking to just jump on a big rock or an expert looking to get some serious rock-hanging in, there’s a rock for you at the park.

Castle Rock itself stands in a forested portion of the park just a third of a mile from the main entrance and marks the park’s highest point at 3,214 feet. But bring your climbing shoes if you want to peak it. Unlike the numerous outcrops, which range from spaceship-sized behemoths to boulders the size of a swollen Big Foot and surround Castle Rock like satellites, Castle Rock has no convenient foot- or handhold for the untrained (or unequipped) climber to grab onto and scamper up.

The 80-foot Castle Rock Falls offers a sheer cliff face to climb up, a creekside climb camp and a vertigo-inducing show for viewers from the overlook just above.

Goat Rock and its many associated outcrops offers a variety of climbing sites, many exposed to the West. A hat, water and sunscreen are a must for climbers in this part of the park.

—Paul Hagey

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