Castle Point Loop

Summary  Link to more information about summary

Difficulty 3 Intermediate
Length 3.1 miles round trip
7900 feet
+600, -600 feet
Navigation Map
Time Half day
Season Late December through early April
Snowmobiles Use Not permitted [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area.]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Caples Lake
Start South side of Highway 88 at the summer trailhead for Thunder Mountain, 0.2 miles east of an eastbound passing lane and 0.3 mile west of the Carson Spur. Parking is in a small plowed area.

Alternative parking on south side of Highway 88 along the eastbound passing lane in small cuts made by CalTrans. The passing lane is located between 0.5 and 1.2 miles west of the Carson Spur. Special notice.

Description   Link to more information about description

Like the Castle Point tour, the Castle Point Loop tour is a real "sleeper" in that it has so many great things going for it but is not well known. The loop tour has two notable differences: (1) You return to the trailhead by a different route that requires greater map reading skill, and (2) you descend 450 feet of open, moderate terrain from Castle Point before gradually climbing back to the trailhead. The slope you descend gets lots of sun so it consolidates fast and often offers excellent snow conditions for telemarking.

Image on route to Castle Point
Typical terrain along ridge to Castle Point

On this tour, like on the Castle Point tour, you are rewarded with outrageously fine vistas to the north of Desolation Wilderness and to the east of the peaks to the north of Carson Pass as your traverse the ridge of which Castle Point is a part. This is followed by the wonderful descent.

The tour takes you to two peaks. Although the first is unnamed, it is slightly higher than Castle Point, the second. Between these two peaks the views north are continuous.

Especially noteworthy is Pyramid Peak to the north. You can barely see Pyramid Peak from the first peak, but as you ski west to Castle Point and beyond its prominence gradually dominates the skyline. You will also be treated to views of convoluted rock pillars scattered along the north side of the ridge that you traverse.

Image of Pyramid Peak from Castle Point
Pyramid Peak from Castle Point

Image of convoluted rocks on north side of ridge
Cliffs along north side of ridge

This tour ends by returning to the trailhead through meadows and woods.

Mileage Log   Link to more information about mileage log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

This mileage log begins at the summer trailhead for Thunder Mountain. Adjustments to the described route are required if parking at the alternative starting point.

Waypoint 1 to 2
Miles: 0.0 - 0.4
Elevation change: +100 feet

From the trailhead (1) ski east for 0.4 mile until you reach the highpoint on Highway 88 (2).

Waypoint 2 to 3
Miles: 0.4 - 0.6
Elevation change: +100 feet

Carefully cross to the north side of the highway and then climb west for 0.2 mile until you reach the highest peak (3) on the tour.

Waypoint 3 to 4
Miles: 0.6 - 1.3
Elevation change: +150, -150 feet

Follow the ridge west, first descending to a saddle before climbing for a total of 0.7 mile until you reach Castle Point (4).

Waypoint 4 to 5
Miles: 1.3 - 1.9
Elevation change: - 450 feet

Descend to the southwest and then south for a total of 0.6 mile until you reach Martin Meadow Campground (5) that is closed in winter. Initially you descend on the ridge. About halfway down the open part of the ridge you gently turn south (left) down an open arm. At the bottom it is only a short distance through trees to the campground.

Image of Two Sentinels and Martin Point
View of Two Sentinels and Martin Point on descent

Waypoint 5 to 6
Miles: 1.9 - 2.2
Elevation change: Nil

Ski east through the campground for 0.3 mile until you reach Highway 88 (6).

Waypoint 6 to 1
Miles: 2.2 - 3.1
Elevation change: +250 feet

Carefully cross to the south side of the highway and then ski northeast through trees and meadows for a total of 0.9 mile until you reach the trailhead (1). Initially travel along the north side of the creek. This will lead you to a meadow. Then follow the meadow to the northeast. Finally you will enter the trees again and climb the steepest section back to the trailhead.

Print version of map for tour