The trail to the top of Castle Rock rewards riders with spectacular views of Three Sisters, the upper McKenzie River Valley, and the South Fork of the McKenzie River drainage. On the descent back to the trailhead, riders will experience one of the best sections of downhill singletrack in Oregon.
Of course, the punishing climb to the top is what makes it all possible. This ride gains just over 2,400 feet in 6 miles. The lower portion is on King Castle Trail, which meanders through a dark, moss covered old-growth forest below the northern flank of Castle Rock. This section has a gradual beginning, but it gets much steeper for the last mile or so. The forest dries out as you circle around to the south and turn up the Castle Rock Trail, and Oregon grape and salal replaces the carpet of moss. The sublime twists and turns in this lower section are abandoned for utilitarian switchbacks that relentlessly conquer the final 800 feet of elevation.
Take some time to savor the views from the different sides of the summit. There are still anchors in the bedrock on the western end where a Forest Service lookout stood until it was burned by vandals in 1974. The north side is comprised of sheer cliffs, so be very careful when approaching the edge. Glimpses of Cougar Dam on the South Fork of the McKenzie River can be seen through the trees to the south. The best views of the Three Sisters and Mount Washington are at the eastern end, a short scramble up from the last switchback.
O'leary Road (NF-482) provides access to an upper trailhead that is only 1.25 miles from the summit for riders preferring to ascend more gently on gravel and for hikers who are looking for a shortcut to the views.