Castle Peak

Location: Tahoe National Forest, CA

Distance: ~5.9 miles

Type: Day-hike; Out-and-back

Rating: Moderate

Permits & Fees: No parking pass or permit required; dogs are allowed on a leash.

Make sure to bring shoes with excellent grip. During the summer and fall months, the ascent up the peak is extremely slippery with loose gravel. Along with this, the trail has little shade, so both sunscreen and a hat are essential.

The Hike

I was expecting a very strenuous hike (based on the mileage), but was surprised at how simple it was to locate the trail and make our way up the mountain. Don’t get me wrong though; the closer we got to the Summit, the steeper and more challenging it became.

To get to the trailhead from Sacramento, take Highway 80 until you reach the Boreal/Castle Peak exit from I-80 at Donner Summit. Take a left and drive under the freeway up the road. Park at the end of the paved road; here is where you will begin the hike! (Please see Google Maps).

Walk towards the sign that reads Donner Summit Trails (located to the right). Continue straight down the dirt road. Note: There is another road to the left that goes uphill- DO NOT take that path.


After about  ¾ of a mile down the dirt road, there is another fork. The sign located at the fork reads “Donner Lake Summit” and veers off to the right. Note: DO NOT go to the right of this sign (pictured), continue straight down the dirt road.


After another ¼ mile you will reach the end of the dirt road. To the left, up a hill, there is a narrow trail that leads up to the ridge. Take that path until you reach this sign:


From the sign, the hike to the Summit is another 2 miles. As mentioned above, the ascent is extremely slippery and steep. This part of the hike is challenging, but is worth every minute once you reach the top:

Making your way back down is also a challenge, and you should expect to slip every now and again.

This hike is one of the “easier” hikes in the Donner/Tahoe area, but offers the same rewarding views at the Summit.