|Date of Info:||08/04/2012|
‘98 stock Jeep Cherokee -
The road is plenty wide so passing oncoming traffic or turning around is never an issue. There are 7 designated Forest Service campsites within the first mile past the paved road before you have to cross the stream. A passenger car should be able to make it to sites #1 and #2 but higher clearance is needed to make it to sites #3-7 (all within the first mile before the stream crossing).
The stream crossing has a solid / flat bottom but the banks are a little steep getting in and out. There is a pedestrian bridge right next to the stream crossing, so get out and scout it before attempting. At low water (August in a bad snow year) it was not difficult, but could be challenging with higher stream flows.
Past the stream, the road continues gradually up the mountain. Just past a house on private property on your right, there are a few nice (non-designated) camping spots before the wooden bridge.
The road becomes more rough as you cross a wooden bridge with a waterfall just before the Pearl Pass junction. There are 4 or 5 trouble spots that are rocky and this where the trail earns it‘s 4 (out of 6) rating. I recommend getting out and scouting the difficult areas. The trouble spots are fairly short and are spaced out, so you have room to plan your line (or turn around if needed). I was able to make it through without hitting bottom on any of the trouble spots but if you‘re not careful, you could do some damage.
After the Pearl Pass junction, around 11,250‘ the road improves and becomes more gradual. There are two nice (non-designated) camping spots and a few "do for tonight" spots just below treeline. The road above the Pearl Pass junction (~11,250‘) to the upper trailhead (12,800‘) is not rough and if you‘ve made it this far, you‘ll have no problem making it to the top. Be careful of a few large boulders in the road which are avoidable but may be difficult to see in the dark. There is plenty of room to park along the road and if you‘re sleeping in your car or parking to hike, there are tons of places to pull off.
Have fun storming the Castle!