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Castle Canyon Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pointy pinnacle, Castle Canyon (bobcat)
Spires west of the Pinnacles Viewpoint, Castle Canyon (bobcat)
Rock spire, Castle Canyon (bobcat)
The Castle Canyon Trail route (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Castle Canyon TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Pinnacles Viewpoint
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 840 feet
  • High Point: 2,440 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes, but take care around the drop-offs
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Falling

Contents

Description

The forested slopes of the Cascades often present themselves as a steep but relatively smooth-faced carpet as the tall conifers conceal the worn and rugged outcrops below the canopy. The vertical faces, spires, and fins of the Pinnacles at Castle Canyon, not really a "canyon" at all, are mostly hidden to observers from across the valley, but represent a fascinating collection of eroded volcanic formations that is well worth a visit, either as a destination on its own or as an adjunct to one of the many longer hikes in the area. The hike length can be doubled by parking at the West Zigzag Trailhead and hiking along the mossy, closed off section of East Mountain Drive (FR 1819) to the Castle Canyon Trailhead. Be aware that, although this is a short hike, it is steep and hiking boots, rather than tennis shoes, are recommended. Keep your dog on a leash and under control around the formations.

Walk 15 yards down the road from the pullout to take up the Castle Canyon Trail #765. Head into Douglas-fir, cedar, hemlock woods, with an Oregon grape, oxalis, salal and sword fern carpet. Cross an old road bed and a local trail. Reach the wilderness permit box, where vine maples, alders, and big-leaf maples form a leafy canopy. The trail winds up to a junction with another local trail leading off to the right. Pass an old Motor Vehicles Prohibited sign on a tree. Large stumps in the woods attest to the primeval forest that once was. The trail heads to the right and rises more steeply in a series of seven short switchbacks. After this, pass a small clearing and head up along the rocky spine of the ridge. There are gullies to the left and right. The spine steepens and the trail drops to the right. Ascend to the right of a rocky palisade on a rooty trail. These rocks are composed of fused pyroclastic material, or volcanic breccia. The trail reaches the higher outcropping and heads up below it. There’s a fantastic rampart up to the right as well. Rise to the left past an old Trail Not Maintained sign and switchback up to the top of a craggy palisade. Below this point, the Pinnacles Viewpoint, spurs lend easier access to the spine of this outcrop, with views across the Zigzag Valley to Hunchback Mountain. It is a temptation for many visitors to scramble about on the formations, but take care, especially on wet days, and wear proper footware.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Government Camp, OR #461
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Hiking Oregon's Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.