There are several hikes to mountain tops in the McKenzie River Valley region and this is probably the easiest and the shortest. This 2.4-mile out-and-back hike is a perfect warm-up hike for those planning on a multi-hike day or for those that happen to be passing by on Highway 126 and that can spare an hour or two.
After a long but beautiful drive to the trailhead we set off into the very shady and cool forest of Douglas-fir and vine maple, arriving quickly at the junction with the Kings Castle trail which is popular with mountain bikers. After the junction the trail to Castle Rock begins a more steady climb. After a half dozen broad switchbacks the trail reaches some steep cliffs dotted with huge old growth trees. Soon after the trail exits the trees and passes through a dry meadow with oaks and bushy manzanitas. The once smooth trail becomes rocky for the next quarter mile or so.
After two or three quick switchbacks the trail arrives at a ridge/saddle with nice views of the Sisters to the east. The summit of the trail is a few hundred feet along the ridge at the top of a short rocky scramble. The views to the west of the McKenzie River Valley are marvelous from the summit as are the views of Mt. Washington and the Sisters. Our views to the east were partially obscured by low clouds but the mountains made brief appearances while we enjoyed a quick snack break. It was tempting to stay longer at the summit but with two hikes ahead of us we left the summit when another set of hikers arrived and began the short hike back to our car.