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  • Writer's pictureRyan DeMasters

Adventure Daze: Castle Peak, Basin Peak, and Round Valley!


Elevation: 9,100-feet (approx)

Elevation Gain: 1,811 to 2,388-feet

Distance: 5.8 to 9.2-mile Loop


Considered Hard on www.AllTrails.comConsidered Easy on

From: Highway 80 – Castle Peak Exit at Boreal

Location: Tahoe National Forest

Features (in the Summer months): Stream, Trees, Brush, Rocks, Dusty Dirt (and Stickery Plants in the Meadow), Peter Grub Hut, PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)

Suggested Supplies (Aside of Clothing, Water, and Food): Trekking Poles, Maps (GPS), First Aid, Sun Screen

Time: 4h 59m (Start to finish)

Maps by distance:

Longer via AllTrails

Shorter via AllTrails

Quick notes: Below is the screenshot of my GAIA GPS Data. We stopped a few times to relax. We didn’t do the full ascent to the 3rd turret as none of us wanted to rock climb. It also appears the App may have shortchanged us a few tenths of a mile as seen on the Google Earth image below the stats.

My Personal Account of Castle Peak – Basin Peak – Round Valley:

Now, I’ve done this hike once before (last year) and it was a bit more adventuresome and pressured so I didn’t get to take in as much as I did this time. We did drive back into the hike from the trailhead like we did last year though which definitely makes this an easier hike.

This is why the information above varies greatly. I definitely suggest considering bringing a friend with the clearance on their vehicle to go with you. (insert winky face here).

What to expect:

Lots and lots of dusty dirty dust and ROCKS! Loose, stable, and otherwise!Not many refillable water sourcesOther humans and possible small 4 legged companion critters (yes, dogs)Sun. Sun. Sun. You are exposed about 85% of the trail! Windy? Yes!VIEWS!Learn from your mistakes (or mine)…no…really!

Dirty Dusty Rocky Dust Dirt!

Whew! I would say dusty can be an understatement depending on how you look at it. Every step kicks up a little dust; however, there isn’t so much that it is an issue. I name dust something to expect because it can cause some slippage on the trail as well as with the other pebbly, rocky, gravelly rocks.

There were a few points that, even with my trekking poles and hiking boots, I slipped going up the slopes. This is not to say everyone will slip, but just that I did, so be wary! I also had the joy of actually NOT falling when I slipped.

This dirty dusty rocky dust dirt is, in fact, throughout the WHOLE TRAIL! I didn’t count, but I could surmise that I slipped maybe 8 times (which is about 4x more than normal for me).

I don’t think at this point that I would recommend Gators, just some long pants (yes, even in the summer) as these will become useful in multiple areas of the hike.

Water? Maybe.

We learn from our mistakes (kinda)! After last week’s mishap of running out of water too soon, we grabbed extra water (3L for me and since my friend is training, 6L for her)! We made a pitstop the night before at REI and grabbed 2 new 3L water reservoirs.

This time, I didn’t run out of water until we got 4/5 of the way through the hike (and of course my partner had extra). She didn’t run out of her first supply at all this time, so it’s safe to say we were good…this time.

About 3/5 of the way through this hike you cross a stream on the descent from Basin Peak via PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and again at the 4/5 mark once in the valley by Peter Grub Hut.

Other Humans and their 4 Legged Companion Critters!

We ran into quite a few other people and only a few dogs on this trail, no other wildlife was seen by our group besides the occasional bird and chipmunk.

Early on we met a small group of 8 from New York that were enjoying their trek through the Sierra Nevadas. They even gave me an idea for another post! Thanks, guys!

Besides the New Yorkers, we met a pretty fair amount of people (a few small groups) with children and other adults. It was great being able to share some stories and trail experiences with all of them.

We were also quite fortunate (maybe) that we were able to do this hike during the Castle Peak 100k Endurance Race. There were 120 + people doing the 100k Race (5am to 3am) that ran through the trails and along the spine from Basin Peak over Castle Peak and to Sugar Bowl.

It was actually pretty amazing getting to cheer all these crazy inspirational people on! I was super excited, telling them how awesome they are to do something so difficult!


Sun? Pffft! We don’t need no stinkin’ sunscreen!

Oh, wait… yeah we do! Boy, was it sunny! It was in the 80-degrees range and windy, but that didn’t stop us from getting cooked!

I started my day off with sun-tan spray (as I’m trying to darken my light  Northern European skin tone), by the time we were on our descent from Basin, I was really feeling it! I had to slather my ears, neck, and nose with the real 50-SPF sports sunscreen!

I will NEVER not tell you that sunscreen is important. Let me rephrase that; WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN! Do as I say, not as I do! I’m really bad with reapplying sunscreen myself, but I always urge those around me to do so. You should see my tan lines…or maybe not. HA!

The wind helped a bit at the top of the mountains, but at about 2pm on the top of Basin Peak, it was feeling pretty blustery in the sun. This is where I drank the most water I think.

The wind was a nice trade-off in a few instances as it had a nice cool tinge to it. I am unsure if it was due to the sweat or not. Saving grace on the way back is the shade you get once you get halfway down the mountain on the PCT.


I have to admit, this is one of the best hikes for views in an (almost) full 360-degree rotation. The only things to get in the way are the turrets of Castle Peak. Ironic? Yes.

HOWEVER! This interference only comes into play from the trail itself. At the top of any of these turrets, you can get the FULL 360 view. Even from the 1st turret, you can actually see parts of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Ski Runs and Pyramid Peak in the distance as well as some of the other peaks off of Highway 50.

Basin Peak has the better view in my honest opinion because of how far off any view obstruction happens. The further the view, the better. Right?

Learning from past experiences:

Last year I did this with 2 different people opposed to the group I had this year. Last year we scaled down the side of Basin Peak (not my finest moment), I do NOT recommend this!

It was much more pleasant and enjoyable overall to take the actual trail.

I learned last year to NOT go through the valley but to stay on the trail. Why? Well, there were MANY stickers and thorns in our gear after we got out. They were very uncomfortable and difficult to remove.

This also gave me the foresight to wear pants (I DID relay this to my group, but there was only 2 of 5 of us that wore them. People must learn on their own!

Because of last year, I knew where the true summit was and that rock climbing is the choice for getting there and was able to safely relay this to many a person thinking they wanted to go there.

I did not go into the Peter Grub Hut this year since I did last year, but I do suggest taking a look. The first floor is accessible from the back side and the 2nd floor from the inside and also a ladder on the front side.

There is also an “outhouse” on the back side too. It’s 2 stories (you’ll understand when you see it) and you should use the lesser of 2 evils. You put your soiled tissue in a bucket instead of down the chute so be prepared for stinker-ola!


I highly recommend this hike! It is fantastic for views and you get a little history if you go into the Peter Grub Hut and check out the 1st and 2nd floors! Super cool stuff in my opinion.

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