Castle Peak – Tahoe National Forest (open all year but best to ride in the summer when trails are free of snow) (http://www.sierranevadageotourism.org/content/castle-peak-area- trails/sie877D22DB40BAD902B)
Location: Off interstate 80 – about a hour drive east of Auburn Click to view the map
Address: Interstate 80, exit Boreal Ridge/Castle Peak
Phone: 530 587 3558 - Tahoe National Forest Truckee Ranger District
Web Site: Info site - http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/tahoe/recreation/tkrd/summer.shtml#non-motorized_trails
Directions: Take Interstate 80 east from Auburn, exit Boreal Ridge/Castle Peak. Turn right and road immediately dead ends at Boreal Ski Resort. Make a left on the frontage rd and road will dead end after about 1/3 mile at the parking area to the right. Frontage road is paved but not a smooth road. There is also access to the trails if you turn left and go on the other side of Hwy 80 and park just on the other side of Highway 80 (might fit 2 or 3 small rigs with out blocking the road). Do NOT drive up the paved road - there is NO turn around and the road is not in good shape, lots of pot holes and there is no safe place to park a trailer.
Staging area: You will enter into a large paved parking area – set up for cars. There is a “pull through” area in the first section where we parked and staged that will hold 3 rigs (2 large). There is also a cement pad in the 2nd section as you pull around through the parking lot near the exit that a rig could back into. Looks like people have also parked along the frontage road. The road seems to be wide enough with the only traffic being cars coming into the parking area.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed and many we saw were off leash. Not sure if a leash is a requirement or not.
Trails: ( I would not recommend these trails for a green horse or novice rider). Out of this staging area you can hook up easily with the Pacific Crest Trail and go south or north on it. Going north will take you to Castle Pass - follow Castle Pass signs. About a mile north of Castle Pass is the historic Peter Grubb Hut built in 1938/39. Please note that to go north from the parking area on the PCT you will proceed through 2 tunnels after about ½ mile from the staging area that take you under Hwy 80. These tunnels are not very roomy have metal walls with cement floors – see pictures under Castle Peak north. There was some water and loose rocks on the floor of the 2nd tunnel going north. Also when coming back through the tunnels south towards the parking area the 2nd tunnel outlet you will need to make a sharp rt turn to go up some wide steps – straight is a drop off (see pictures). Hint: When coming back from Castle Pass and you see a body of water on your right, a building and the Hwy, this is where the trail turns left and heads uphill to get you back to the tunnels. If you go straight that trail may take you to the correct trail but I am not sure and it looked like there were some granite slabs you would have to climb over.
If you decide to park on the other side of Hwy 80 you will bypass the tunnels and will meet up with the PCT.
Going south on the PCT you will see wonderful views of Donner Lake but after 2 miles the trail gets very steep ending up at Donner Pass Rd/Lincoln Hwy in another ¾ of a mile or so. We were advised by volunteers and experienced horsemen that the remaining 3/4 mile of the trail which switch backed down to the road, was not the safest trail for horses, hence we turned around at this point. Going south is also a more technical trail than going north and you will pass over more granite.
Most of the trails, either going to the south or the north, are quite technical – some similar to Sliver Lake trails. All are single track with some parts of the trail getting very narrow with steep drop off’s – those distances were short. You do hit some granite areas - again more going south, be careful about horses slipping. We found one bad area where 2 horses slipped and went down. I have identified the area in the picture section. The spot is about a mile from the staging area going north on the PCT.
No bikes are allowed on the PCT. There is a trail near by – Hole-in-the-Ground Trail which mountain bikes are allowed on. You will probably encounter many hikers and the day we went there were several crews working on the trails – all very considerate when we passed.
There are some signs – older wooden ones in the ground and a few metal ones (PCT) posted on trees.
Water: Water is available at one spicket located near the trail head in the parking area. Bring your own hose. Lots of pressure.
Restroom facilities: 2 vault type rest rooms at the parking area. There was no TP in the restrooms when we were there and they were rather smelly. There is a 2 story old outhouse at Peter Grubb Hut (about 6 miles north on the PCT ). (Next time we will go there and have pictures).
Other info: Elevation at the parking area is 6,906 ft. Elevation at Castle Pass is 7,896. Castle Pass is approx 5 miles from the parking area via the PCT north. There can be snow on these trails as late as early July. Mid July 2012 there was water in a steam going north on the PCT, maybe a couple of miles from the staging area, that was a good drinking area for the horses. There was also another smaller steam further up the trail, enough for drinking. Bugs could be a problem too. This particular ride they were bugging my horse’s face – not so safe when he is trying to rub his face and walk on technical single track trails all at the same time, so thinking maybe a riding fly mask for next time and /or bug wipes.
Other helpful hints - wrapping horses legs, bell boots, bug spray, fly mask you can ride in, wearing spurs if that is an option for you, a GPS or "my tracks" on a smart phone, water for you.
Fees: no fees
See “trail pictures” tab located to the left of this page for photos and more information.
Print this page to take with you for reference.
Friendly reminder, be smart, do not leave any valuables in your vehicle.