(Dunsmuir, CA) During the 2013 Labor Day weekend, my family and I visited the Mt. Shasta area and camped at Castle Crags State Park, located just south of Dunsmuir, CA. and about two hours south of the Oregon border.
We had been aware of the park for many years, but since it was only 30 minutes from our home in McCloud, we never considered camping there.
It wasn’t until years later, after we moved out of state, that we went ahead and made some reservations while looking for a place to stay during a weekend visit.
This area is very mountainous, spectacular, and remote. There is a solid sea of green forest extending clear to the horizon in all directions, broken only by moutain tops.
Mt. Shasta is only 30 minutes north, so you have the full view of the snow-capped mountain in the distance. On the other side of the freeway is the Sacramento River.
As you drive past the park, you can see gigantic white marble spires that are unlike anything else in this area. They are identical to the type you would see at Yosemite or other parks in the Sierra Nevada. (As it turns out, the spires are popular with rock climbers).
Castle Crags is a hidden gem or the north state, but it does have some issues. During the California budget criss, the park was closed due to lack of funds. And, when it wasn’t closed, it seemed like it was making the news each year because it was on a list of parks slated for closure to save money. Fortunately, the park is now back open for business and the budget problems are a thing of the past.
The main drawback to Castle Crags is that it’s located literally right alongside the I-5 freeway. This makes the park incredibly easy to access (especially if you’re just passing through the area), but the downside is that you have a major interstate freeway next to a park in such a spectacular setting.
To make matters worse, it turns out that the main north-south train corridor for the west coast is also next to the park and the freeway. The trains go by the park every hour of the day and night, blowing their horns and revving their engines as they struggle up the steep grade. Trains that are heading south down the slope make loud squeeling sounds as they brake their descent down to Redding.
Fortunately, all the freeway and train sounds become much less noticeable the deeper you go into the park.