Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff

Castle Rock State Park

San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California

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Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff

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  • A view of the main belay area for The Layback (5.6), Degeneration (5.10a), Putrefaction (5.11b), and Leading To Death (5.9). The climber is approaching the crux move on Putrefaction.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • A climber on The Layback (5.6), the rightmost climb on Waterfall Cliff.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • Free parking is available immediately south of the entrance to Castle Rock State Park.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • The entrance to Castle Rock State Park on Skyline Boulevard.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • The trailhead to reach Castle Rock Falls from the main parking area at Castle Rock State Park.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • The trail to Castle Rock Falls.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • The Castle Rock Falls observation platform, approximately 1 mile from the parking lot trailhead.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • The Waterfall Cliff climbing crag is just visible through the trees across the creek from the observation platform.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • A climber prepares to rappel from the observation platform at Castle Rock Falls.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • A climber rappels Castle Rock Falls (5.10a) from an anchor secured to the observation platform.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • To reach the Waterfall Cliff climbing area, follow the sub-trail to the left toward the creek just before arriving at the observation platform.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • A top-rope anchor for Clean Corner (5.8) is easily accessible from the trail to Waterfall Cliff. Turn right off the trail when you start to see the back of the crag after crossing the creek and hiking uphill a short ways.- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
  • A young climber tops out on The Layback (5.6).- Castle Rock Falls Waterfall Cliff
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Close to Silicon Valley. Nice selection of climbs. Convenient top ropes.
Cons: 
Crowded. 30-minute approach hike.
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Region:
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, CA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Recommended Equipment:
Harness / rope / anchors, Harness / rope / anchors, Harness / rope / anchors, Helmets
Alpine climbing NCCS rating: 
Grade V
Net Elevation Gain: 
-600.00 ft (-182.88 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
2.00 mi (3.22 km)
Trailhead Elevation: 
3,015.00 ft (918.97 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

Waterfall Cliff is a popular climbing crag in Castle Rock State Park that offers a collection of about 15 fun routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.12b, with many featuring easy top-rope anchors. About 1 mile from the main entrance to the park, the crag is easy to find and the approach is a nice hike, though it is rather longer than you'll find across the street at Indian Rock. With its proximity to Silicon Valley and generous selection of approachable climbs, Waterfall Cliff is a great choice for spending a day at the crag.

The waterfall observation platform is the landmark for orientation at Castle Rock Falls: You can't miss it from the trail, and it offers wonderful views of both the immediate area and the beautiful park surrounding it. The waterfall creek divides the climbing area into two halves. Immediately below the platform is a large, sheer face that hosts the aptly-named The Falls (5.10a), which is most easily accessed by rappelling from the supports of the platform. In fact, this rappel is itself a popular attraction, with many adventurers coming only for the descent and choosing to hike, rather than climb, back to the anchor. A 60-meter rope is just long enough to make this rappel, so be sure to build your anchor at the very bottom of the support that is closest to the cliff face.

On the other side of the creek from the observation platform is the crag named Waterfall Cliff, which is where most of the routes in this area reside. The trail across the creek begins just before reaching the observation platform that is next to an obvious sign warning "Danger: Sheer cliff, stay back." Generations of climbers have promptly ignored this sign and stamped out a footpath to the creek. Traction on the trail is marginal, so wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots. Once on the other side, follow the trail up, around, and down to the generous belay station at The Layback (5.6). If you're looking to top rope, consider getting your bearings around the face of Waterfall Cliff before hiking back up and looking for the anchors. The easiest, safest anchors to reach are for The Layback and Clean Corner (5.8), though the anchor for Putrefaction (5.11b, or 5.10ish if you omit the crux roof move), the next route nearer the creek from The Layback, is also reachable. A stout tree is available behind these anchors for rigging basic personal protection if desired.

Other classics for Waterfall Cliff include Clamydia (5.12a), Anti-Christ (5.11d), and Greeboo (5.10a). The local favorite climbing guidebook, Bay Area Rock, covers the crag well.

Free parking is available on Skyline Boulevard just south of the main park entrance, while parking in the lot inside the main entrance is available with a $10 day pass. Consider carpooling, as both paid and free parking fill up quickly. You will have the best luck getting on the routes you want if you are able to make it to the crag during the week. Otherwise, bring a sandwich and enjoy a large belay area in a pleasant outdoor setting as you wait for your turn to climb.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(18 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(95 within a 30 mile radius)

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Who's Done It
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93 Adventures Explored
45 Adventures Published

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