Castle Crags Wilderness

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Castle Crags Wilderness
Castle Crags June 2007.jpg
Castle Crags view from the state park
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Location Trinity Mountains,
Shasta-Trinity National Forest,
Siskiyou and Shasta Counties,
Nearest city Mount Shasta City
Coordinates 41°12′00″N122°22′50″W / 41.20000°N 122.38056°W / 41.20000; -122.38056 Coordinates: 41°12′00″N122°22′50″W / 41.20000°N 122.38056°W / 41.20000; -122.38056
Area10,500 acres (42 km2)
Governing body U.S. Forest Service

The Castle Crags Wilderness is a 12,232-acre (49.50 km2) [1] wilderness area in the Castle Crags rock formations of the Trinity Mountains, and within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, in northwestern California. It is located in Siskiyou County and Shasta County, 40 miles (64 km) north of Redding and south of Mount Shasta City.


The US Congress passed the California Wilderness Act in 1984 which set aside the wilderness.


Elevations of the Castle Crags range from 2,500–7,300 feet (762–2,225 m). The Trinity Mountains are a range in the Klamath Mountains System and the Klamath geological province.

The prominent spires in the southeast that make up the Castle Crags are the main attraction and are similar to the granitic rock landscape in parts of Yosemite National Park. In the northern portion of the wilderness, the landscape is more like the Klamath Mountains with glacial erosion, several cirques, and abundant rainfall with a high, east-trending divide. The area is bounded on the east by the Sacramento River, in the north by the South Fork Sacramento River and in the south by the canyon of Castle Creek and the boundary of Castle Crags State Park.


One roadless area of 1,732 acres (7.01 km2) borders on the northwest and contains the largest glacial cirque, Castle Lake, which is near where the Modoc War's 1855 Battle of Castle Crags took place. Now a historical landmark (California Historical Landmark No.16), the battle was fought on a ridge saddle between the lake and what is known as Battle Rock. [2]

The Wintu Indians who inhabited the area called the crags the Abode of the Devil and the Spanish explorers called it Castle del Diablo (Castle of the Devil.) [3]

There are mineral springs at the base of the crags which were used by the early fur traders, and after the Southern Pacific Railroad was completed into the area, health resorts sprang up as well. The railroad touted the beauty of the West to increase ridership, improve the West's image, and hopefully, sell some of its land holdings.

Sunset was a publication started in 1898 by the passenger department of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company that described various places in the West and was named after its Sunset Limited railroad line which went from New Orleans to San Francisco. The magazine's description of Castle Crags is the typical, flowery writing style of that era:

"These are peaks of a spur of the Trinity range, that rise abruptly in towers and pinnacles, splintered and riven in all manner of fantastic shapes. With every slight change in the position of the beholder they seem to march and countermarch, advance and recede, until one is ready to believe them moving." [4]

The advent of logging and mining brought even more people to the area with some mining continuing until the 1950s.
In 1933, concerned citizens successfully worked to protect the area and were able to acquire much of the land that became the state park. President Reagan signed into law the California Wilderness Act in 1984 that protected another 10,500 acres (42 km2) and was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System. [5]

Flora and fauna

Endemic Castle Crags harebell. Campanula-shetleri.jpg
Endemic Castle Crags harebell.
The ivesia plant.
Note the granite ledge in background. Ivesia-longibracteata.jpg
The ivesia plant.
Note the granite ledge in background.

The wilderness contains more than 300 species of wildflowers, including the Castle Crags harebell and the Castle Crags ivesia, both endemic, [6] as well as tiger lily, monkey flower, and Indian rhubarb. Drier locations have yarrow, aster and buckwheat. Forested areas have incense cedar, white fir, ponderosa pine, several types of oaks with Pacific dogwood and maple in riparian zones. Meadows and brushlands have various kinds of manzanita along with huckleberry oak, chaparral and mountain whitethorn. Poison oak is common, as are rattlesnakes—dictating caution when hiking the trails.

Black bears, coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions are some of the larger predators in this diverse habitat of bare granite, steep slopes, meadows and mountain streams.


The state park extends 480 acres (1.9 km2) inside the wilderness and has five of the nine trailheads. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) traverses the wilderness for 19 miles (31 km) with several spur trails connecting from the park to the PCT.

The Castle Dome Trail is a strenuous hiking trail into the crags proper and passes near Indian Springs, a natural hillside spring with views of the crags. The trail ends after 2.7 miles (4.3 km) at a notch just west of Castle Dome (4,829 feet (1,472 m)), [7] the southernmost of the crags, providing an unobstructed view of Mount Shasta and the spires, buttresses, sheer cliffs and domes of the Castle Crags.

Rock climbing opportunities range from Class 5 to Class 5.13a in difficulty, and although the granite rocks are massive, some areas are unstable because of exfoliation (flaking layers of loose rock).

The Forest Service encourages the use of Leave No Trace principles of outdoor travel to minimize impact to the environment.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Klamath Mountains Mountain range in Oregon and California, United States

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Shasta Cascade Mountainous region of California

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Trinity River (California) River in northern California

The Trinity River is a major river in northwestern California in the United States, and is the principal tributary of the Klamath River. The Trinity flows for 165 miles (266 km) through the Klamath Mountains and Coast Ranges, with a watershed area of nearly 3,000 square miles (7,800 km2) in Trinity and Humboldt Counties. Designated a National Wild and Scenic River, along most of its course the Trinity flows swiftly through tight canyons and mountain meadows.

Trinity Alps Mountain range in Siskiyou and Trinity Counties

The Trinity Alps are a mountain range in Trinity County and Siskiyou County in Northern California. They are a subrange of the Klamath Mountains located to the north of Weaverville.

Castle Crags

Castle Crags is a dramatic and well-known rock formation in Northern California. Elevations range from 2,000 feet (610 m) along the Sacramento River near the base of the crags, to over 6,500 feet (2,000 m) at the summit of the tallest crag.

Shasta–Trinity National Forest

The Shasta–Trinity National Forests are federally designated forests in northern California, United States. Combined, they are the largest National Forest in California and are managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The 2,210,485 acre combined-forest encompasses five wilderness areas, hundreds of mountain lakes and 6,278 miles (10,103 km) of streams and rivers. Major features include Shasta Lake, the largest man-made lake in California and Mount Shasta, elevation 14,179 feet (4,322 m).

Klamath National Forest

Klamath National Forest is a 1,737,774-acre national forest, in the Klamath Mountains and Cascade Range, located in Siskiyou County in northern California, but with a tiny extension into southern Jackson County in Oregon. The forest contains continuous stands of ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, Douglas fir, red fir, white fir, lodgepole pine, Baker Cypress, and incense cedar. Old growth forest is estimated to cover some 168,000 acres (680 km2) of the forest land. Forest headquarters are located in Yreka, California. There are local ranger district offices located in Fort Jones, Happy Camp, and Macdoel, all in California. The Klamath was established on May 6, 1905. This forest includes the Kangaroo Lake and the Sawyers Bar Catholic Church is located within the boundaries of the Forest. The Forest is managed jointly with the Butte Valley National Grassland.

Six Rivers National Forest National forest in California, USA

Six Rivers National Forest is a U.S. National Forest located in the northwestern corner of California. It was established on June 3, 1947 by U.S. President Harry S. Truman from portions of Klamath, Siskiyou and Trinity National Forests. Its over one million acres (4,000 km2) of land contain a variety of ecosystems and 137,000 acres (550 km2) of old growth forest. It lies in parts of four counties; in descending order of forestland area they are Del Norte, Humboldt, Trinity, and Siskiyou counties. The forest is named after the Eel, Van Duzen, Klamath, Trinity, Mad, and Smith rivers, which pass through or near the forest's boundaries.

Trinity Mountains

The Trinity Mountains are a subrange of the Klamath Mountains, one of the ranges within the California Coast Ranges and part the greater Pacific Coast Ranges, the coastal mountain system extending from Mexico to Alaska. The Trinity Mountains subrange rises in Siskiyou County and eastern Trinity County, Northern California.

Trinity Alps Wilderness Protected wilderness area in California, United States

The Trinity Alps Wilderness is a 525,627-acre (212,714 ha) designated wilderness located in northern California, roughly between Eureka and Redding. It is jointly administered by Shasta-Trinity, Klamath, and Six Rivers National Forests. About 4,623 acres (1,871 ha) are administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The wilderness is located in the Salmon and Scott Mountains, subranges of the Klamath Mountains region. The high, granitic and ultramafic peaks of the eastern half of the wilderness area are known as the Trinity Alps. Granite peaks at the core of the area are known as the White Trinities, reddish ultramafic peaks in the southeast are known as the Red Trinities, and the forested mountains in the western half of the wilderness are known as the Green Trinities.

Whiskeytown–Shasta–Trinity National Recreation Area National recreation area in California, United States

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Red Buttes Wilderness Protected wilderness area in California and Oregon, United States

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Castle Lake (California) Lake in California, United States of America

Castle Lake is a glacial lake located in the Trinity Mountains, in Siskiyou County of northern California. It is west of Mount Shasta City and Mount Shasta peak.

Golden Trout Wilderness Protected wilderness area in California, United States

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Yolla Bolly–Middle Eel Wilderness Protected wilderness area in California, United States

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Mount Shasta Wilderness Protected wilderness area in California, United States

The Mount Shasta Wilderness is a 38,200-acre (155 km2) federally designated wilderness area located 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Mount Shasta City in northern California. The US Congress passed the 1984 California Wilderness Act that set aside the Mount Shasta Wilderness. The US Forest Service is the managing agency as the wilderness is within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The area is named for and is dominated by the Mount Shasta volcano which reaches a traditionally quoted height of 14,162 feet (4,317 m) above sea level, but official sources give values ranging from 14,104 feet (4,299 m) from one USGS project, to 14,179 feet (4,322 m) via the NOAA. Mount Shasta is one of only two peaks in the state over 14,000 feet (4,300 m) outside the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The other summit is White Mountain Peak in the Great Basin of east-central California.

Russian Wilderness Protected wilderness area in California, United States

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North Yolla Bolly Mountain

North Yolla Bolly Mountain is a 7,868-foot (2,398 m) peak in the Klamath Mountains of the Coast Ranges located in Trinity County, Northern California. The mountain is located in an isolated part of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, about 50 miles (80 km) west of Red Bluff. It is situated about 13 miles (21 km) from Mount Linn, the highest point of the Coast Ranges south of the Trinity Alps.



  1. 10,500 acres (42 km2) wilderness plus 1,732 acres (7.01 km2) roadless area
  2. Battle of Castle Crags from a booklet by Miller, Joaquin 18371913 The Battle of Castle Crags Archived 2003-07-15 at the Wayback Machine First published as a pamphlet, circa 1894, issued as a promotional booklet for the Tavern of Castle Crags (see Blanck, Jacob., 'Bibliography of American Literature,' #13837)
  3. Dottie Smith, special to the Record-Searchlight, Online Edition series: "Travelin' in Time" Thurs., March 20, 2008 Archived May 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine retrieved 12-5-2008
  4. Sunset, Southern Pacific RR Co. 1898 p.22, Google Books, accessed Dec.10, 2008
  5. Castle Crags Wilderness Area, USFS pdf, p. 1
  6. Shasta-Trinity NF's "Sensitive and endemic plants "
  7. United States Geological Survey Feature Detail Report