Castle Rock Falls

Los Gatos / San Jose / Castle Rock State Park, California, USA

About Castle Rock Falls


Hiking Distance: 2.4 miles round trip (incl. Castle Rock)
Suggested Time: 60-90 minutes

Date first visited: 2016-05-19
Date last visited: 2016-05-19

Waterfall Latitude: 37.22634
Waterfall Longitude: -122.10566

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Castle Rock Falls really seemed to us like a sideshow compared to some of the other attractions that were at the Castle Rock State Park.

Typically, the park was known for the interesting rock formations that probably gave the park its name, but it also featured views towards the Pacific Ocean.

Castle_Rock_035_05192016 - Castle Rock Falls
Castle Rock Falls

As you can see from the photo above, the 70ft waterfall itself wasn’t particularly that interesting.

This was 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 look 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.

I swore that some of these formations seemed like it was out of a Science Fiction movie or video game.

Castle_Rock_112_05192016 - Mom checking out some of the strange alien-like formations at the Castle Rock
Mom checking out some of the strange alien-like formations at the Castle Rock

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.

Hiking to Castle Rock Falls

Since this page is about the Castle Rock Falls, 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.

Castle_Rock_004_05192016 - Some of the interesting rock formations seen on the way to the Castle Rock Falls in Castle Rock State Park
Some of the interesting rock formations seen on the way to the Castle Rock Falls in Castle Rock State Park

The trailhead signs said that the waterfall was about 0.8 miles away (or 1.6 miles round trip).

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.

Castle_Rock_015_05192016 - Mom on the nice forested trail leading down to the Castle Rock Falls
Mom on the nice forested trail leading down to the Castle Rock Falls

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.

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.

I even noticed some use trails deviating from the main Saratoga Gap Trail probably for scrambling for a better view.

Castle_Rock_021_05192016 - Context of Mom on the narrowing trail as it approached the overlook for the Castle Rock Falls
Context of Mom on the narrowing trail as it approached the overlook for the Castle Rock Falls

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.

Exploring the Castle Rock

When we had our fill of the Castle Rock Falls, we went back uphill the way we came.

However, instead of going straight back to the trailhead, we then made a quick detour on the Castle Rock Trail.

It took us about 35 minutes to finally get to the imposing rock formation from the Castle Rock Falls.

Castle_Rock_050_05192016 - Looking up at some of the beautiful redwood formations as we hiked from the Castle Rock Falls to the Castle Rock formation
Looking up at some of the beautiful redwood formations as we hiked from the Castle Rock Falls to the Castle 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.

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.

Castle_Rock_089_05192016 - Looking back at the tiny natural arches and alcoves within the eccentric Castle Rock formation
Looking back at the tiny natural arches and alcoves within the eccentric Castle Rock formation

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).

Authorities

Castle Rock Falls resides in the Castle Rock State Park near Los Gatos in Santa Clara County, California. It is administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Castle_Rock_002_05192016 - Mom following the well-signed trail onto the Saratoga Gap Trail, which would also lead us to the Castle Rock Falls
Castle_Rock_007_05192016 - The Saratoga Gap Trail was very lush and well-shaded as we took it to the Castle Rock Falls
Castle_Rock_010_05192016 - Mom continuing on the lush Saratoga Gap Trail in pursuit of the Castle Rock Falls
Castle_Rock_014_05192016 - Mom towered over by tall trees flanking the Saratoga Gap Trail en route to the Castle Rock Falls
Castle_Rock_019_05192016 - Further along the Saratoga Gap Trail, we weaved between this jumble of rocks shortly after crossing a bridge traversing Kings Creek on the way to Castle Rock Falls
Castle_Rock_024_05192016 - Looking down at the brink of Castle Rock Falls
Castle_Rock_028_05192016 - Broad view over the brink of Castle Rock Falls
Castle_Rock_029_05192016 - Precipitous look over the Castle Rock Falls from the overlook
Castle_Rock_030_05192016 - Another broad view over the Castle Rock Falls
Castle_Rock_036_05192016 - As tempting as it was to try to find a better way to view Castle Rock Falls, we ultimately obeyed this sign
Castle_Rock_039_05192016 - 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 further
Castle_Rock_040_05192016 - Mom backtracking as we left Castle Rock Falls and pursued the Castle Rock formation
Castle_Rock_041_05192016 - Mom going by some odd rock formations alongside the Saratoga Gap Trail as we backtracked then headed towards the Castle Rock
Castle_Rock_047_05192016 - Looking towards an unusual scene of trees seemingly leaning towards each other, which made me wonder if they were falling (kind of like how redwood trees would typically die since they're typically fire resistant)
Castle_Rock_053_05192016 - During the uphill return hike from Castle Rock Falls, we took this detour to see what the Castle Rock was all about
Castle_Rock_056_05192016 - While on the Castle Rock Trail, we were able to look back at the density of trees as we climbed above the Saratoga Gap Trail
Castle_Rock_060_05192016 - The Castle Rock Trail skirted past some more eccentric rock formations
Castle_Rock_062_05192016 - Approaching the backside of what I believe to be the Castle Rock formation
Castle_Rock_064_05192016 - This was another one of the sandstone 'tufa' formations seen along the Castle Rock Trail
Castle_Rock_066_05192016 - Looking through one of the peep-holes in the Castle Rock formation
Castle_Rock_070_05192016 - This jumble of sandstone rocks was also near Castle Rock, and it became clear why this place was popular with rock climbers
Castle_Rock_078_05192016 - Mom dwarfed by the Castle Rock formation
Castle_Rock_080_05192016 - Looking up at the arches and alcoves as well as other weird formations at the Castle Rock
Castle_Rock_082_05192016 - Checking out more of the small arches and alcoves of the Castle Rock
Castle_Rock_088_05192016 - Close-up look at some of the mini natural arches within the Castle Rock itself
Castle_Rock_095_05192016 - Approaching the largest opening of the Castle Rock formation
Castle_Rock_098_05192016 - Looking back at some of the overhanging parts of the Castle Rock formation
Castle_Rock_102_05192016 - Closer examination of some of the alien-like patterns in the Castle Rock
Castle_Rock_113_05192016 - More crazy formations attached to Castle Rock
Castle_Rock_115_05192016 - Looking right up at more of the patterns of the Castle Rock formation
Castle_Rock_120_05192016 - Mom taking a different trail from Castle Rock back to the parking lot
Castle_Rock_125_05192016 - More serene forested trails on the final stretch from the Castle Rock to the parking lot
Castle_Rock_128_05192016 - Mom returning to the parking lot at the Castle Rock State Park

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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.

Castle_Rock_130_05192016 - The gated entrance to Castle Rock State Park right off Skyline Blvd
The gated entrance to Castle Rock State Park right off Skyline Blvd

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.

Castle_Rock_001_05192016 - The parking lot within the gates of Castle Rock State Park right off the Skyline Blvd
The parking lot within the gates of Castle Rock State Park right off the Skyline Blvd

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.

Castle_Rock_132_05192016 - If the gates of Castle Rock State Park are closed, we noticed that there was additional parking just outside the gates along Skyline Blvd
If the gates of Castle Rock State Park are closed, we noticed that there was additional parking just outside the gates along Skyline Blvd

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.

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

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Tagged with: los gatos, san jose, castle rock, state park, santa clara, california, bay area, northern california, waterfall, san lorenzo valley



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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