I couldn’t wait to get in among the trees to test my new GPS unit. Castle Rock State Park has abundant tree cover, though nothing as thick as, say Big Basin Redwoods, which is back in the rotation again (though it never really left).

The unit worked fine, though it is a bit finicky. It never lost satellite contact as long as I was holding it in my hand with the antenna section (the fat part above the screen) facing skyward. For awhile I had it dangling from my pack and it lost contact almost as soon as I hit deep cover. Conclusion: bouncing is bad for GPS baby. Prediction: inventor of GPS-enabled hiking hat stands to make a fortune.

Every visit to Castle Rock offers some reminder of why you came even if you’ve been there a dozen times before. Sunday morning I noticed a massive rock formation just beyond the trailhead that somehow eluded my attention in all previous visits. Sometimes it’s stuff that seems uncanny every time you look at it, like the shades of brown in manzanita bushes and madrone trees that seem to exist nowhere else in nature.

Then there’s the narrow, rocky length of the Saratoga Gap Trail, scrunched up against a hillside with an awesome panorama of the Santa Cruz Mountains unfolding for miles to the north, south and west. The gun club down the road does produce a hellacious racket, but it’s not a hike killer.

I did the standard Saratoga Gap Trail to the Campground, then took a nice little detour along the Frog Flat Trail, then returned via the Ridge Trail to Goat Rock, wandered over by the Interpretive Center, then headed back with a stop at Castle Rock just before I finished. About 7.5 miles, the GPS said, with over 1,800 feet of ascent along the way. It’s easier to get a workout in at Castle Rock than you might suspect.

Let’s see the pictures:


Little creek near the junction of the Ridge Trail and the Saratoga Gap Trail. Either way you turn is a winner at this junction — either up (right) to Goat Rock or down (left) to Castle Rock Falls.

Castle Rock Falls

Speaking of the falls, they are a trickle now. Also, the viewing platform that had been closed for construction has been reopened.

Saratoga Gap Trail

We had an amazing sky, splashes of autumn color, warm breezes … hard to imagine a better day without somebody giving away free beer.

Massive stone formation

This rock reminded me of an Easter Island statue.

Trail color

Refresh my memory folks: I know these are not holly berries, I just don’t remember what they are.

Cable route

Short stretch of cable on one dicey bit of the Saratoga Gap Trail.

Frog Flat

Saw a few campers at the Frog Flat campground. Not far from here is the little-used Frog Flat Trail, a nice walk through deep forest canopy.

Scenic overlook

Scenic overlook along the Ridge Trail heading back toward the park HQ.


Madrones, cool as always.

Goat Rock

Climbers milling about at Goat Rock.

Fall color

More shades of autumn.

Castle Rock

Yet another attempt to capture the immensity of Castle Rock. This is probably the only place not blocked by trees, but the thousand shades of sunlight make make fools of photographers.

So, them’s the highlights of this week’s hike. Next week I might just test my GPS in a real forest, though if these cool, sunny autumn days persist I’ll be tempted towards more open-to-the-sky locales.

External links for Castle Rock State Park: