Castle Peak


Difficulty 4 Intermediate-advanced
Length 6.0 miles round trip
7200 feet
+1900, -1900 round trip
Navigation Road, marked trail and map
Time Most of a day
Season December through mid-April
Snowmobiles Not permitted except between mileage points 1 and 2. [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Norden
Start The plowed loading zone on the north side of Interstate 80 at the Castle Peak Area and Boreal Ridge exit. Parking is at the Donner Pass Sno-Park located at the east end of the frontage road on the south side of the interstate at the same exit.


Viewed from the south, it is clear why Castle Peak was named. A massive fortress, Castle Peak stands alone (except for Basin Peak) commanding an awe inspiring view.

Image of Castle Peak from Castle Pass
Castle Peak from Castle Pass

The summit has long been a destination for skiers in the Donner Pass area. The scenery from the summit is outrageous — beyond the Donner Summit area you can see north to Sierra Buttes and south to the peaks of Desolation Valley. In addition to the scenery, the bowl to the northwest of the summit attracts telemark skiers. Be aware that this bowl and many of the slopes in the vicinity of Castle Peak are unsafe when unstable snow conditions prevail.

The tour to the summit of Castle Peak is a combination of two distinct parts. First there is the modest climb to Castle Pass and then there is the steep ascent to the peak (1200 feet in 1.2 miles).

Castle Peak is one of several popular destinations for those spending a night or two at nearby Peter Grubb Hut.

Mileage Log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Miles: 0.0 - 0.3
Elevation change: +100 feet

From the trailhead (1) ski east on the snow-covered road that parallels the interstate and then northwest for a total of 0.3 mile until you reach a road junction (2). The tour continues northwest (straight) on the road while the road to the west (left) loops around the west side of Andesite Ridge.

Miles: 0.3 - 0.5
Elevation change: Nil

Ski northwest (straight) on the road for 0.2 mile until you reach the edge of the meadow (3) in Castle Valley.

Miles: 0.5 - 1.7
Elevation change: +500 feet

Ski northwest on the road, which may be difficult to discern, for 1.2 miles until you reach the flat area (4) at the base of Castle Pass.

Image of skier heading to Castle Pass
Heading to Castle Pass

Miles: 1.7 - 1.8
Elevation change: +100 feet

Ascend to the northwest for 0.1 mile until you reach Castle Pass (5). This section is very steep.

Miles: 1.8 - 2.3
Elevation change: +400 feet

Climb northeast for 0.5 mile until you reach the ridge (6) that leads to the summit of Castle Peak.

Image of ridge to Castle Peak
Ridge you ascend to Castle Peak runs from right to left in background

Miles: 2.3 - 3.0
Elevation change: +800 feet

Climb east on the ridge for 0.7 mile until you reach the summit of Castle Peak (7).

Miles: 3.0 - 6.0
Elevation change: -1900 feet

Retrace the route for 3.0 miles back to the trailhead (1).

Elevation Profile
Elevation profile
Link to elevation profile
Link to waypoint data
Link to full page map
Link to see and submit reviews and corrections about tour