With its three turrets reaching above the landscape, Castle Peak (elevation 9,103) is one of the icons of Donner Summit.
Visible and easily accessible from nearby Interstate 80, the Castle Peak area offers miles of hiking and biking trails and back country skiing opportunities. The area is accessible via the north side of Interstate 80 at the Castle Peak exit along a rugged dirt road that also provides access to Andesite Peak and the popular mountain bike trail, Hole-in-the-Ground. Trails are often under snow until the beginning of July. Once exposed, the trails cross over slabs of glaciated granite and pass wildflower lined streams. Multiple trails offer hikes for all skill levels.
To summit Castle Peak, take the Boreal/Castle Peak exit from I-80 at Donner Summit. Go east along the frontage road on the north side of the freeway. Park where the pavement ends. From the pavement end, follow the dirt road about ¼ mile to the south end of Castle Valley. Bear left and up, keeping Castle Valley on your right. At about a mile from the end of pavement the road forks; take the left, upward branch. About ½ mile further, you will see signs for the Hole-in-the-Ground (mountain biking) Trail on the left. The road ends at the base of Castle Pass. Climb 200 vertical feet to Castle Pass, where the trail on your right makes an obvious ascent to the top of the peak. From here there are two options: Head east to the final leg of the Castle Peak hike which, while not technical, is quite steep with loose volcanic rubble; or head north another half mile on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) dropping into beautiful Round Valley where you can visit the historic Peter Grubb Hut, which is owned by the Sierra Club. The historic hut was built in 1938-39 by friends and family as a memorial to Peter Grubb, who had just graduated from Galileo High School in San Francisco and was on a bicycling tour of Europe when he died at the age of 18. Hikers who summit Castle Peak are rewarded with panoramic views that include most of the Lake Tahoe peaks, Donner Lake, Sierra Buttes, and (on a clear day) Mount Lassen.
Hikers choosing to connect to the PCT can continue past the Peter Grubb Hut to Paradise Valley and Paradise Lake. The PCT continues north, climbing over the west shoulder of Basin Peak and dropping through a deep forest of old trees into Paradise Valley at about 6 miles from I-80. The PCT continues north across a bridge over North Creek. Pick up a jeep road/trail about ¼ mile beyond the bridge. Follow it eastward around the north side of Paradise Valley, eventually reaching Paradise Lake, a great overnight backpacking destination.
The Castle Peak area is just one of the attractions of Donner Summit. Year-round attractions, accommodations, and dining are available nearby in Soda Springs, Norden, and Serene Lakes.