I Love Free Camping
Castle Crags State Park is an absolutely amazing place. It is located about 45 minutes north of Redding, CA on Interstate 5. There are multiple hiking trails that take you to waterfalls and/or huge granite spires (aka crags). The hike to Castle Dome is my favorite in the park and is quite the workout. The views at the top are well worth the sore legs, however. This last weekend found Laura and I camping just outside the park on Castle Creek. The one thing that I do not like about the park is the price of camping overnight in the park campground. It costs $25 per night to camp inside the park boundaries. To me, this seems way too expensive. The cost mixed with the fact that the campsites are quite small, very close together, and are close to the interstate is why I’m not a fan of staying inside the park.
The good news though is that there are a handful of great campsites just up the road past the park entrance. The area is named Castle Creek and is in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. These sites are free of charge and are much nicer and scenic than the ones in the park itself. Plus, they sit along the creek which is perfect for getting water to filter or for taking a quick swim in the summer months. We stayed in the northernmost site which is the largest and closest to the creek. These sites have large rock fire rings but nothing else. There are no bathrooms or showers.
These sites are only a 5-minute drive to the park entrance. So, after you spend the day exploring the crags or hiking one of the other trails you can simply drive back to your free campsite for the evening. The only downside to staying at this campground is that most of the sites sit relatively close to the road that was a bit busy throughout the day. Once it was dark though the road became quiet for the rest of the night. Another advantage of staying in the national forest is that you won’t be woken up many times throughout the night by the blaring of train horns as they make their way past the park and up towards Dunsmuir.
During the day we lounged around and relaxed in our hammocks in the shade. I started reading a new book on my Kindle and Laura took a much-needed nap. We snacked and ate some sandwiches, explored the creek, and then drove into Castella so that Laura could get some pictures of the sun setting on the crags. After that, it was dinner time so we returned to camp and feasted on some pasta and chicken sausages. I know it sounds weird, but it was quite good! We weren’t able to have a campfire this time unfortunately because there were fire restrictions in place this summer. So, we climbed into the tent and tried to stay cool. The temperatures were still in the high seventies when we went to bed around 10.
The next morning we woke up around 7:30 and began to break down our camp. Once everything was loaded into the truck we headed down the road for home. It was another beautiful day up here in Northern California and we didn’t really want to leave the woods and head back to the blistering heat of Redding. But, it was Sunday and there were chores that needed to be done before the new work week started. It was a quiet and relaxing weekend spent in a beautiful place. And, it was free! If you are headed to Castle Crags in the future and plan to camp, I would highly recommend that you skip the campground inside the park and stay just up the road on Castle Creek. It’s quieter and your bank account won’t suffer as bad.