Castle Rock State Park

New Entrance Offers
Access, Comfort, and a Quality Experience

Neil Wiley

In July, Castle Rock got more than a new entrance. An old Christmas-tree farm has been transformed into beautiful new facilities that radically improve the user experience.

Instead of parking on the side of the highway, you drive into a welcoming paved area with room for ninety cars, and some charging stations. Need water? Have a drink at the water station. Need to use your cell phone? The Wi-Fi is free. Need a break? Six accessible bathrooms offer running-water sinks and flush toilets.

A short walk into the park takes you to a large sculpture flanked by benches, several picnic areas, a garden, and a rentable sixty-person amphitheater. All are accessible via walkers, wheelchairs, and strollers.
These comforts have been balanced by protecting the environment through the use of solar power, permeable paving, storm-water capture, aquifer recharging, and state-of-the-art water treatment.

If this seems too civilized, a walk down the new 3/10-mile Waterfall Connector Trail takes you along a natural-looking leafy, shady path to Saratoga Gap Trail, and connections to Ridge Trail, Castle Rock Falls, Goat Rock, and Trail Camp. It’s a relatively easy downhill hike, and not much harder on the way back up.

Sempervirens Fund, with the help of California State Parks, Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, sports retailer REI, and individual donors are responsible for this gem. You can support it, too. Parking costs $10, seniors pay $9. It’s not much for a beautiful experience.

Castle Rock is a short drive away on Skyline Boulevard between Black Road and Saratoga Gap. The new entrance is 800 feet north of the old one.

Although its 5,400 acres and 34 miles of trails may be daunting to the occasional hiker, you can find shorter hikes to a waterfall, 26 campsites in two camping areas, unusual tafoni formations, climbing rocks, redwood groves, and beautiful vistas. And when you return, you can find your car, have a drink of water, use the facilities, and phone your friends. It’s the civilized way to enjoy nature, right here in our own Santa Cruz Mountains.