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Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead

San Bernardino National Forest

San Gabriel + San Bernardino Mountains, California

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Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead

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  • The Castle Rock Trailhead.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • The Castle Rock trail near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • The Castle Rock Trail near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • The Castle Rock Trail near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • The Castle Rock Trail near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • The Castle Rock Trail near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • The Castle Rock Trail near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • First view of Castle Rock on the approach from Big Bear Blvd/CA-18.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • The dramatic south face of Castle Rock, home to many of the crag's classic climbs.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • The dramatic south face of Castle Rock, home to many of the crag's classic climbs.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • Castle Rock near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • Castle Rock near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • Castle Rock near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • Castle Rock near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • An easy scramble at the top of the hiking trail gives access to the spectacular summit views.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • Expansive views near the summit of Castle Rock.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • An easy scramble at the top of the hiking trail gives access to the spectacular summit views.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • Local wildlife on Castle Rock near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • This tight squeeze provides the safest scramble to the summit of Castle Rock, which hosts big views and a couple of top-rope bolt anchors.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • The final scramble to the summit of Castle Rock. On the left are a couple of basic boulder moves, on the right a chimney squeeze.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
  • The southwest face of Castle Rock near Big Bear Lake, California.- Castle Rock Crag via Lower Trailhead
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Big views. High-quality granite. Variety of routes.
Cons: 
Summer heat. Potential for crowds.
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Region:
San Gabriel + San Bernardino Mountains, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Recommended Equipment:
Harness / rope / anchors, Additional ice tools, Helmets
Alpine climbing NCCS rating: 
Grade V
Net Elevation Gain: 
500.00 ft (152.40 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
2.00 mi (3.22 km)
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,900.00 ft (2,103.12 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

Castle Rock is a large granite outcropping above Big Bear Lake that offers nearly 30 trad, sport, and top-rope routes on high quality granite ranging from 5.5 to 5.11. The approach is a popular 1-mile hike from Big Bear Boulevard/CA-18 that is often crowded with day hikers but not climbers. Starting at nearly 7,000 feet of elevation, the steep trail can be a huff-and-puff affair when carrying a full load of climbing gear, but the expansive views and superb rock faces are a just reward.

A few of the classic routes at Castle Rock include Knightline (5.10a/b trad), Ball and Chain (5.9+ sport), and The Great Steps of Cheops (5.6 TR), though there are several other excellent lines. Bolts in the Big Bear area tend to hold up well due to the dry climate, and trad placements enjoy excellent granite reminiscent of that in Joshua Tree National Park but not as sharp on the fingertips. Big Bear can be climbed year-round, though winter climbing is highly dependent on snowfall and summer climbing on heat.

Castle Rock is on the wetter south side of Big Bear Lake, set in a large conifer forest of ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, sugar pine, and incense cedar, among other varieties of trees. Chipmunks, ground squirrels, and small lizards are abundant, along with numerous bird species including Steller's jays, pygmy nuthatches, and Cassin's finches. Even bald eagles are known to nest in the Big Bear area.

Climbers looking for quality climbs in a beautiful setting not far from town will find a lot to like at Castle Rock.

Note: For those looking to avoid the crowds of the lower trailhead, Castle Rock can also be accessed by the Upper Trailhead off of forest road NF-2N86 to the south. Although the drive to the trailhead is longer, the hike-in access is the same distance, has 270 less feet of elevation gain/loss, and the added serenity makes it a worthy consideration.

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(25 within a 30 mile radius)

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(44 within a 30 mile radius)

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