Bouldering at Castle Rock State Park
Rock climbing. Over 4.6 million people tried this sport in 2015 and the numbers have only increased in the last few years. If you’re one of the newly converted rock climbing enthusiasts in the area, you should definitely check out bouldering at Castle Rock State Park.
California is known for its granite, but Castle Rock is an all sandstone climbing destination.
Sandstone means no climbing after it rains, so mind the climbing season carefully. Most climbers visit Castle Rock from April to September, when there is the least likelihood of rain. There have been cases of unawares climbers going out too soon after it rained and breaking off classic climbing holds. So please be respectful of the three day rule when considering bouldering at Castle Rock. The sandstone is grippier than it looks, and the wild features of this rock give it a unique pocketed appearance unlike any other formations in California.
Boulderers are encouraged to bring crashpads to protect the landing zones of the many bouldering problems. However, climb around Castle Rock long enough and you will surely see a few of the locals going ‘old school’ and using nothing more than a towel to wipe their feet before setting off on a difficult V6!
“Castle Rock is a little gem in the Santa Cruz mountains. It’s a beautiful forest filled with sandstone boulders that’s often compared to Fontainebleau, [France]. It was so great to come back and visit old friends and show my buddy Pol Roca where I got my start almost 25 years ago.” — Chris Sharma (rockandice.com)
Sharma, who now lives in Spain and runs his own climbing gym, grew up a Santa Cruz local and first started climbing outside at Castle Rock. From these humble beginnings, Sharma has made a name for himself as one of the strongest climbers in the world, having sent (meaning climbed without falling) several 5.15’s in his life time. To give context, the average rock climber will climb no harder than 5.10 or 5.11!
If you happen to stop by this beautiful little crag, there are a few things to be mindful of.
- The mosquitos can be challenging in the springtime, so be prepared to slather yourself in bug repellent, especially when hanging out in shady areas!
- Parking can be a problem, especially on weekends. If you can’t find a place to park at the pay lot ($8 day fee), there are a few parking lots farther down the highway. From there you can walk easily to the park. But be mindful of crossing the highway! Fortunately a new parking lot and entrance is currently being built that will help with this.
Castle Rock State Park is located on Highway 35, just 2 1/2 miles southeast of the junction with Highway 9.If you’re interested in ticking off all the classic climbing routes at Castle Rock, you can order a guidebook online. However, consider trying out a few of the most classic routes listed below.
Some classic climbs to try out:
The Spoon V1+: Difficult for shorter people, The Spoon is a classic Castle Rock climb. A big reach leads to an awkward mantle move high off the ground. Fun!
The Beak Traverse V3: Are you afraid of heights? Then check out The Beak Traverse. A pumpy V3 that leads around a corner and does a small mantle to top out. A nice problem to work with friends!
The Waimea Wall V1: A fun V1 that will let you practice your dynos if you’re short, or at least your deadpoints if you’re not. Also great for photo opportunities if you want to scramble around the crux to the top!
Mr. Magoo V1-2: A fun warm up with multiple starts, you can make this climb V1 or V2. It’s located on the ever classic Mr. Magoo boulder, so if you visit on a weekend, expect to wait in line!
Tree Problem V4: A classic Castle Rock boulder problem. It’s one of the first climbs you come to when hiking up the hill. You’ll be able to spot the boulder formation because of the large tree that has grown into the side of it. There is lots of variation on this climb, bring plenty of pads and a group of friends!