Scrapbook day at Castle Crags and Dunsmuir
Editor's Note: Day Trippin' is a recurring feature that gives readers a chance to play tour guide and tell us about a nearby getaway.
If you have driven on Interstate 5 near Dunsmuir, you have likely been awed by one of the more splendid rock formations in all of California, the Castle Crags.
Can you drive up there? Hike it? Climb to the top? Yes. Yes. And yes. Well, mostly.
Rising to 6,500 feet, the massive, 170 million-year-old, glacier-polished granite spires are in Castle Crags State Park, located six miles south of Dunsmuir just off the Castella exit. Pay the small day-use fee and take the well-paved road about 3 miles to a newly renovated parking lot. From there it's a short (ADA compliant) walk to the perfectly situated viewing porch with sturdy rails and nearby picnic tables.
While still several miles from the actual Crags, you'll have a sense of accomplishment and a major photo opp. But if so motivated, as many are, get on the 5.5-mile trail and make your way to the rock garden at the base of Castle Dome.
Getting to the top of the dome itself is a bit daunting and not a good idea for the less athletic. You don't need to rope up, but this is fairly technical, about on a par with Pilot Rock or Mount McLoughlin. Know your limits.
If you love trains, stop on the way back at the Railroad Park Resort; same freeway exit. In 1968, descendants of pioneering railroaders began collecting and preserving the old rail era, renovating rail cars into sleeping units. A collection of cabooses, flat cars and boxcars were faithfully restored. Over time additional cabooses were transformed into motel units as well as an Antique Railroad Car Dinner House and Lounge, with a swimming pool and spa. Lunch and dinner is served Wednesdays through Sundays (reservations advised). You can visit, explore and reminisce without being a lodger or diner.
And take time to visit historic Dunsmuir. Hedge Falls and Mossbrae Falls are easily accessible and quite photogenic. If you bring your bikes, it’s a nice 2-mile ride from the Railroad Park to Dunsmuir on a safe road paralleling the Sacramento River. Or, heck, walk it!
Stroll through Dunsmuir with its old buildings and historic character. For you railroad buffs, Dunsmuir has a decent amount of activity, including freight and the daily Amtrak, once in each direction, although at times you are not likely to enjoy. Northbound at 4:56 a.m. and southbound at 12:35 a.m. Union Pacific has a rail yard with tanker-car handling at the north end of town.
Like many of our day trippin’ gems, spring and autumn are the best tines to go. It's 105 miles and 100 minutes in each direction from Medford. Allow 8 to 9 hours to get the most of your day. More if you include a summit. This will be a scrapbook day, I'm betting. Only bummer: no dogs in the park itself.
Bill Bartlett lives in Talent.