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Castle Rock Falls

Castle Rock State Park

Explore waterfalls, sandstones and forests in one magical visit


1.3 miles



Trail Type

Out & Back

Elevation Gain

320 feet

Looking for a challenge in your health and wellness journey? The trail to Castle Rock Falls might be perfect if you are looking for a short but challenging trail experience.

Although rated “easy” by California State Parks, this 1.3-mile out-and-back trail is rugged, with a few switchbacks, occasionally steep climbs or descents, narrow paths, and rocks, roots, and the occasional washout to navigate. But the rewards may well be worth it.

Forested, you will follow and cross a stream to sandstone formations and the real prize: a viewing deck to enjoy a 75-foot waterfall and expansive mountain valley views to the west.

*Trail ratings vary and in this guide you will find information to make the best choice for your health and wellness goals.

Trails Rx

Enjoy the health benefits of time in nature on the Castle Rock Falls trail at Castle Rock State Park in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Why is this a healthful experience?

Resting spots for contemplation

Rigorous hiking with cardiovascular benefits

A mental challenge, as you navigate irregular terrain

A special and varied landscape, where trees, rocks, sandstone, and water come together

Trails Rx Benefits

Unleash the Healing Power of Nature

Trails Rx was established to help you improve your physical and mental health while enjoying time in nature. With guidance from Sempervirens Fund's Wellness Advisor, Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, we took inspiration from her work with Iowa's Hartman Reserve Nature Center.

The program promotes regular use of these trails, or parks near you, to integrate nature's healing benefits into daily life.

"Research increasingly finds that human health is improved by spending time in nature. Whether exercising, birdwatching, or spending quiet, mindful time outdoors, a host of physical and mental health benefits have been confirmed."

Volunteer Application 2024 Sempervirens Fund

Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller
MD, FACOG FABOIM Sempervirens Fund Wellness Advisor

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What Does the Data Say?

Here are ways you can measure the benefits of enjoying the Castle Rock Falls Trail:

Light Pace

2.5 miles per hour

Trail Length

1.3 miles

Metabolic Equivalent of Task

The amount of energy used while active compared to energy used sitting still.

4.5 METs


31 minutes


Estimates vary by weight.

130 lbs

145 calories

165 lbs

184 calories

200 lbs

223 calories

235 lbs

262 calories

Moderate Pace

3.5 miles per hour

Trail Length

1.3 miles

Metabolic Equivalent of Task

The amount of energy used while active compared to energy used sitting still.

5.9 METs


22 minutes


Estimates vary by weight.

130 lbs

136 calories

165 lbs

172 calories

200 lbs

209 calories

235 lbs

245 calories

Trail Benefits

Health Benefits of Unique Features along the Castle Rock Falls Trail

Waterfalls offer special health benefits.

As water falls, negatively-charged electrons fill the surrounding air. Inhaling and being in the presence of these electrons confers healthful, balancing effects on our immune, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. You might notice an energy boost, similar to the awakening effects of a morning shower, after spending some time next to falling water.

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Look off into the distance.

The high vantage point of the Castle Rock trail allows us to take in a vast landscape, gazing miles into the distance, high over the treetops. Many people spend the majority of their time indoors, often gazing at screens and monitors. The act of gazing at wide landscapes is a great break for the brain and eyes and is something we should try to do regularly. Research has also described the "Cathedral Effect," in which thoughts and ideas become smaller and more analytical when we are in a room with a low ceiling, and that even small increases in ceiling height can promote more abstract thoughts and greater creativity. We can take this concept outdoors to a trail such as Castle Rock Falls when we need a boost of creativity and inspiration.

Outdoor exercise keeps us coming back for more.

A review of eleven different studies found that exercising in nature, as opposed to indoors, led to greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy, as well as decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. It also found that people generally felt greater satisfaction and were more likely to repeat the activity than they were if they had gone to the gym. So instead of struggling to hit the gym, hit the trails instead!

See more below in our Invitations section for suggestions to maximize this experience.

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Body and Mind Contemplation

We believe each place has the potential to reward our senses and bring us peace and mindfulness. In the practice of Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing, invitations are prompts we can give ourselves to invite an inward response to the nature we are experiencing. In this section we offer invitations you might respond to in your experience visiting Castle Rock Falls.

Pleasures of Presence

For these invitations sit, stand, or rest comfortably against something solid and close your eyes or lower them to the ground.

Rest comfortably and slowly breathe, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice the air: the fragrance, the temperature, and the moisture.

Invitations for the Castle Rock Falls Trail

Where are you seeing contrasts in darkness and light? What is it like if you shift your focus to dark instead of light areas? What about color and shapes? How do things change if you squint your eyes?

You might spend some time jotting down or journaling what you noticed during this experience.

Learn more about Forest Bathing and check out a longer list of invitations to consider.

About the Park

Castle Rock State Park

Near Los Gatos, 34-miles of trails wind through Castle Rock State Park’s 5,300 acres of sandstone formations, forests, and vistas. Sempervirens Fund helped create Castle Rock State Park in 1968 and has since helped grow the park by more than 4,000-acres. In 2019 the new Robert C. Kirkwood Entrance, restored and built by Sempervirens Fund supporters, opened to connect more people to the park with modern amenities.

Today, Sempervirens Fund continues to protect surrounding priority lands like the Robert C. Kirkwood Entrance and Castle Rock West to help expand Castle Rock State Park.

What The Park Offers


Parking Lot

Seating benches

Drinking fountains


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Getting There

Know before you go: Visit the trail page for the latest updates.

Castle Rock State Park

The park is located on Highway 35 in Los Gatos, just 2 1/2 miles southeast of the junction with Highway 9.


$10 vehicle day-use fee

Public Transportation

No known public transit available at this time

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