Saturday, January 27, 2001

Castle Rock State Park

Kathy, Nancy, Zona, Ron, Dirk and Michael take the first waterfall hike of the season. See the Trip Report below.

Castle Rock is one of the most popular hiking sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is more or less connected to a series of trails along Skyline Boulevard, a.k.a. Highway 35. Its most famous features include a 25 foot (at least) waterfall that flows most of the year, and numerous rock formations. Goat Rock often has rock climbers on it, though the space for viewing them is very limited.

The trails are well traveled and well maintained. Some very short sections may involve a steep climb. One section involves climbing over a large boulder which some will feel better doing with their hands on the rock itself.

Poison oak is present on a few sections, but can be easily avoided by staying on the trail. There is a profusion of wildflowers in the spring, and several open meadow areas are lush with flowers then.

Most of the trail is under cover, but part of it is exposed and offers good views of the valley below and even the ocean, 20 miles away.

The short hike is about 2.5 miles and consists of a mostly long, gradual descent, then a long, level walk, a short moderate climb, a long gradual climb, a short, moderate descent, and a long, gradual climb back to the beginning. The trail is covered for 2/3 of the distance of the short hike. There is a great view of Castle Rock Falls, two benches along the way, informational signs, and some great views.

This trail is moderate on the "Wimble Scale". Plan on one large water bottles and a snack. The hike will usually take 2 hours or more.


From the intersection of Highway 9 and Highway 35, go about 2.6 miles south to the Castle Rock State Park entrance on the west side of Highway 9. Parking is $5.00. Some people try to avoid paying the park fee, thus hurting the future of the park, by parking on Highway 9 itself. There is very limited legal parking on Highway 9 near the park entrance.

There is a toilet in the parking lot, and at the campground (nearly 3 miles further). There is no water until you get to the campground. A pay telephone is in the parking lot. Maps are occassionaly available, but a large trail map is shown on a board near the trail head.

On line information

The California State Parks page at

The Bay Area Hiker page is at

Virtual reality panoramic views are at

A story about one of the rangers, Miles Standish, can be found at

Trip Report

Well, this was interesting. Kathy, Michael and Nancy were all recovering in various degrees from "the illness" that everyone is getting. This turned out particularly problematic near the end of the trip when we approached Goat Rock. Michael was perspiring and his heart was racing and decided he didn't want to do the long climb from the stream bed up to the parking lot. So, he thought he'd try a different way back, one that none of us had tried before.

So, just before reaching Goat Rock, Kathy and Michael headed towards the nature center, which is on a loop which comes back to Goat Rock. Kathy said several times to the other hikers, "I'll meet you back at Goat Rock". She wanted to walk Michael to the nature center and see if, as we suspected, there was an easier way back from there. At the center, the map showed a roadway back out to Highway 35, and, being so close, Michael figured it would be much easier than continuing on the trail. So, off he went, and Kathy headed back to Goat Rock.

When Michael got to the parking lot about 30 minutes later, after a nice easy hike, he waited about 10 minutes for the rest of the group to show up from taking the normal trail back. They all showed up except Kathy. After talking a few minutes, Michael asked where Kathy was. "You're kidding, right?", one of them asked. "No, she said she would meet you at goat rock and went right back there to see you."

Well, it turns out that the rest of the group interpreted Kathy's statement to mean that she was going with Michael on the alternate route back to the parking lot, and would then continue from the trail head on the normal trail back down to Goat Rock. So the rest of the group had gone on, figuring to meet up with Kathy along the trail.

Nancy and Zona took off back down the trail to see if Kathy was behind, still trying to catch up. Michael told them not to go too far in case Kathy showed up from one of the other ways back.

Michael then remembered that Kathy had put the ham radio in his bag before the hike, so he turned it on and gave a shout. "KE6FZC, this is KM6WP", he said. "They're not here, they're not hear", came the faint, scratchy signal from Kathy. "Where are you?", Michael asked. "I'm still waiting at Goat Rock."

Well, after waiting another 30 minutes, Zona and Nancy returned and Michael had Kathy come out the way he had, as it was much quicker than returning along the trail. Kathy made the steep climb near Goat Rock three times while trying to find the rest of the group. All along she assumed the rest of the group was somehow lost. She asked everyone who came up the trail from either direction if they had seen a group of two men and two women, and none of them did.

To add to the confusion, a Ranger came along and said that someone had lost their hat along the trail. Kathy thought that it may have been Zona's, and that the group had gone off to try to find the hat.

Well, Kathy was in pretty good humor about the mixup. Unfortunately, Nancy and Zona had to make the long climb down and back again when they went looking for Kathy, and I'm sure they paid for it the next day.

Otherwise, it was a frigid, clear day. Ice was found in the shadier areas along the trail. In fact, snow could be seen across the valley on Mount Hamilton. A few flowers were beginning to form.

It's good to have an interesting adventure now and then

Below: Dirk, Kathy, Zona, Nancy and Ron at the Castle Rock Falls observation deck.