Castle Rock Falls

Castle Rock State Park / Los Gatos / near San Jose / Santa Clara County, California, USA

Rating: 1     Difficulty: 2
Looking over the top of Castle Rock Falls from its viewing platform

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Castle Rock Falls really seemed to us like a sideshow compared to some of the other attractions that were on offer at the Castle Rock State Park - namely the interesting rock formations as well as the views towards the Pacific Ocean. As you can see from the photo at the top of this page, the waterfall itself wasn't particularly that interesting, especially since none of the sanctioned trails allowed us to have a good view of it as we were only able to get a partial view over its brink from the lookout platform. Other than that, our experience with this waterfall was perhaps overshadowed by the imposing Castle Rock formation, which was full of little arches, alcoves, and even strange formations (some of which seemed like it was out of a Science Fiction movie or video game). In fact, this park was well-known amongst Bay Area residents, and it was said to be amongst the most popular as well, especially on the weekends. Maybe next time we're here, we'll do the Goat Rock Trail to climb even higher for the commanding views towards the Pacific Ocean and San Lorenzo Valley.

Since this page is about the waterfall, we'll just describe the hike to get there and back from the main parking lot (see directions down below). We started from the well-signed trail onto the Saratoga Gap, which promptly descended as it approached the waterfall, which was said to be about 0.8 miles away. All this elevation loss meant we'd have to climb uphill on the way back. The trail was well-shaded with several tall trees (some of them were coastal redwoods I believe) seen along the way. There were also a couple of trail junctions (one for Castle Rock and another for Goat Rock), but they deviated from the waterfall so we kept going. After crossing over a bridge above the Kings Creek, we then made it to the viewing platform above Castle Rock Falls roughly 20 minutes after we started.

The lookout deck had some partial views of the ridges and mountains in the immediate area while affording us the partial top down view of the waterfall itself. Speaking of the falls, it was said to be on the order of 70ft or so though it was hard to tell from our vantage point. I've seen in the literature that some people have managed to scramble their way around to the bottom for a more satisfying frontal look at it, and I even noticed some use trails deviating from the main Saratoga Gap Trail probably for scrambling for a better view. However, we didn't bother trying to explore the off-trail scrambling, especially given the steep nature of the terrain, which would make it very dangerous.

When we had our fill of this waterfall, we went back uphill the way we came, but we then made a quick detour on the Castle Rock Trail, which took us about 35 minutes to finally get to the imposing rock formation. There were actually more rock formations like that of Castle Rock, and I'm sure rock climbers could have their pick at which one of these rocks they'd like to tackle. Anyways, Castle Rock itself was perhaps the largest of these sandstone rocks, which Mom theorized might have come from the ocean several millions of years ago, and that might explain the alien-like formations seen in some of the alcoves as well as some of the small natural arches. When we were done visiting this rock, the parking lot wasn't much further, and so in total, we spent about 90 minutes away from the car to take it all in (including Castle Rock as well as the Castle Rock Falls).




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PHOTO JOURNAL

This was one of the interesting alien-like patterns seen in one of the big alcoves within Castle Rock itselfThis was one of the interesting alien-like patterns seen in one of the big alcoves within Castle Rock itself
This was the back side of the Castle Rock, which was still way taller than my Mom, but the front side of Castle Rock was even more imposing and larger than what's shown hereThis was the back side of the Castle Rock, which was still way taller than my Mom, but the front side of Castle Rock was even more imposing and larger than what's shown here
On the other side of the San Lorenzo Valley to the west was the Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which not only featured the impressive Berry Creek Falls, but it also had lots of coastal redwoodsOn the other side of the San Lorenzo Valley to the west was the Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which not only featured the impressive Berry Creek Falls, but it also had lots of coastal redwoods
Inside the Castle Rock State Park parking lotInside the Castle Rock State Park parking lot

Following the well-signed trail onto the Saratoga Gap Trail, which would also lead us to the Castle Rock FallsFollowing the well-signed trail onto the Saratoga Gap Trail, which would also lead us to the falls itself

This big rock seen along the Saratoga Gap Trail with lots of alcoves and mini arches was kind of a pre-cursor to what we would be seeing at the namesake Castle Rock itselfThis big rock seen along the Saratoga Gap Trail with lots of alcoves and mini arches was kind of a pre-cursor to what we would be seeing at the namesake Castle Rock itself

The Saratoga Gap Trail was very lush and well-shadedThe Saratoga Gap Trail was very lush and well-shaded

We encountered a lot of imposingly tall trees alongside the trail, and I suspected that some of these tall trees were coastal redwoodsWe encountered a lot of imposingly tall trees alongside the trail, and I suspected that some of these tall trees were coastal redwoods

Further along the Saratoga Gap Trail, we weaved between this jumble of rocks shortly after crossing a bridge traversing Kings CreekFurther along the Saratoga Gap Trail, we weaved between this jumble of rocks shortly after crossing a bridge traversing Kings Creek

Mom on the stretch of trail leading us directly to the overlook platform for Castle Rock FallsMom on the stretch of trail leading us directly to the overlook platform for Castle Rock Falls

Looking down at the brink of Castle Rock FallsLooking down at the brink of Castle Rock Falls

As tempting as it was to try to find a better way to view Castle Rock Falls, we ultimately obeyed this signAs tempting as it was to try to find a better way to view Castle Rock Falls, we ultimately obeyed this sign

This fence appeared to be erected in a spot where there might have been another trail of use leading towards an alternate view of Castle Rock Falls, but we didn't push the issue any furtherThis fence appeared to be erected in a spot where there might have been another trail of use leading towards an alternate view of Castle Rock Falls, but we didn't push the issue any further

Looking up towards the top of one of the imposing coastal redwood treesLooking up towards the top of one of the imposing coastal redwood trees

During the uphill return hike, we took this detour to see what the Castle Rock was all aboutDuring the uphill return hike, we took this detour to see what the Castle Rock was all about

While on the Castle Rock Trail, we were able to look back at the density of trees as we climbed above the Saratoga Gap TrailWhile on the Castle Rock Trail, we were able to look back at the density of trees as we climbed above the Saratoga Gap Trail

This was another one of the sandstone 'tufa' formations seen along the Castle Rock TrailThis was another one of the sandstone "tufa" formations seen along the Castle Rock Trail

This jumble of sandstone rocks was also near Castle Rock, and it became clear why this place was popular with rock climbersThis jumble of sandstone rocks was also near Castle Rock, and it became clear why this place was popular with rock climbers

Close-up look at some of the mini natural arches within the Castle Rock itselfClose-up look at some of the mini natural arches within the Castle Rock itself

More crazy formations attached to Castle RockMore crazy formations attached to Castle Rock

Just to give you an idea of how imposing Castle Rock was, this was Mom standing inside one of the rock's alcoves, which featured these crazy alien-like formationsJust to give you an idea of how imposing Castle Rock was, this was Mom standing inside one of the rock's alcoves, which featured these crazy alien-like formations

Mom taking a different trail from Castle Rock back to the parking lotMom taking a different trail from Castle Rock back to the parking lot

Finally back at our car, which was parked outside the gates alongside Skyline BlvdFinally back at our car, which was parked outside the gates alongside Skyline Blvd


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Sweep checking out the top of Castle Rock Falls and the view from here


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Castle Rock Falls resided in Castle Rock State Park, which was roughly a 45-minute drive from San Jose. We managed to get here from Morgan Hill, which was another 15-20 minutes to the southeast along the US101, and we'll do the driving directions from there. If you're coming from the Bay Area, you can pick up the driving directions from the Hwy 17 towards Los Gatos.

So starting from Morgan Hill, we drove north on the US101 for about 10 miles to its junction with the 85 Freeway. We then headed west on the 85 Freeway for over the next 10.5 miles before junctioning with the 17 Freeway due south towards Los Gatos. Next, we took the 17 Freeway for a little over 5 miles to the exit onto Montevina Road. Turning right at the offramp, we then followed Montevina Road north alongside the 17 Freeway for about 0.3 miles towards Black Road on our left. Turning left onto Black Road, we would then follow it for the next 4.5 miles eventually turning right onto the Skyline Blvd.

During our visit, we were unlucky with a tree falling onto Black Road so it was closed and we had to take the narrow single-lane Gist Road to connect from Black Road to Skyline Blvd. In any case, we then headed north on Skyline Blvd for the about the next 5.5 miles to the well-signed turnoff and parking area for Castle Rock State Park. Since the park gates was said to close at sunset, we took advantage of the parking just outside the gates just so we wouldn't be locked in if we were out later than expected. Had Black Road been open, then we would only have to go a little under 4 miles along the twisty Skyline Blvd.

Overall, this drive took us about an hour to get from Morgan Hill to the Castle Rock State Park via the Gist Road detour.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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