City of Rocks National Reserve
Includes Castle Rocks State Park, City of Rocks Back Country Byway
City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho
City of Rocks National Reserve
Includes Castle Rocks State Park, City of Rocks Back Country Byway
The City of Rocks National Reserve is without question one of the top things to enjoy and explore in the great state of Idaho.
This magnificent and fascinating 14,406 acre reserve is located on the southern end of the Albion Mountains, and is home to hundreds of towering granite domes, spires, pinnacles and fins.
Appropriately named, the City of Rocks National Reserve resembles a granite city, with sky scrapers rising into the air as high as 600 vertical feet.
This incredibly unique landscape is definitely worth the drive, and once you get there, you can not only enjoy the beauty and strangeness of the landscape, but you can also participate in hiking, camping, rock climbing and much more.
Window Arch in City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho.
The City of Rocks National Reserve in Southern Idaho is less than an hour south of Burley Idaho along Idaho State Highway 77, which is also part of the City of Rocks Back Country Byway. Castle Rocks State Park is located just a few miles from the City of Rocks National Reserve, and is also very much worth your time to explore.
Having similar geological formations as the City of Rocks Reserve, the Castle Rocks State Park is equally remarkable, and is definitely a "must see" while visiting this remarkable area.
The City of Rocks National Reserve went through a series of name changes through the last century and a half, with some of the early names being Goblin City, Chapel Rock, Ancient City and Pyramid Circle were among the names given to this strange place early on by early emigrants. As these emigrants passed through the area along the California Trail, and chose some of these granite structures to leave their signatures with axle grease, which can still be seen today.
Morning Glory Spire (left) and Anteater, City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho.
World-Class Rock Climbing
The City of Rocks Reserve is world renowned for its outstanding technical rock climbing opportunities. This rock climbing mecca lures climbers from all around the world come to the City of Rocks to tackle the hundreds of routes up these granite towers, pinnacles and domes, ranging from class 5.0 (least difficult) to 5.13 (most difficult).
700 hundred climbing routes in the City of Rocks actually rival the quality of climbing in Yosemite National Park, and explains its worldwide fame. As you drive through the City of Rocks Reserve in Southern Idaho, you can't help but notice these skilled climbers scaling the walls of these great granite towers.
Some of the classic climbing routes include names such as Lost Arrow, Intruding Dike, Columbian Crack, Wheat Thin, Theater of Shadows, Adolescent Homo, Skyline, Rye Crisp, Batwings, Too Much Fun, Funky Bolt, Private Idaho, Scream Cheese, Thin Slice, Bloody Fingers, Terror of Tiny Town and Crack of Doom...just to name of few.
The City of Rocks Reserve in Southern Idaho is part of a geologic group known as the Basin and Range, which is a series of faults. A large mass of exposed ancient bedrock composed of granite was exposed during episodes of upthrusts, resulting in the bedrock being exposed to the elements of wind, ice and water. In time, erosion created the towering spires, domes and pinnacles that you see today. The granite that most of the spires are composed of are part of the 28 million year old Almo pluton. However, some the granite spires and monoliths are actually made up of ancient bedrock that is part of a 2.5 billion year old Green Creek Complex, which is some of the oldest rocks found in the western U.S. This granite has eroded into fascinating assortment of formations.
Auto touring along the well-maintained road through the City of Rocks is the most popular way of exploring this incredibly fascinating place.
Driving through the City of Rocks on the well-maintained road in a car is without question the best way to enjoy the City of Rocks. Auto touring is definitely the most popular activity in the City of Rocks, and we highly recommend it. There are several outstanding picnic areas located throughout the City of Rocks National Reserve which are a great place to take a break, enjoy a lunch, and enjoy the incredible scenery
of this spectacular place.
The well-designed road takes you to all of the fascinating points of interest, including the axle grease signatures left by emigrants on the California Trail and the major rock formations, trailheads and picnic areas.
While touring the City of Rocks National Reserve, keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife found here, such as several species of lizards, hawks, eagles, mule deer, jack rabbits and much much more.
The City of Rocks was an important landmark for emigrants on the California trail. This unique area marked the progress westward for emigrants on the California Trail from 1843 to 1882, and there are still today evidence of their presence. The emigrants of the California Trail described the City of Rocks as "a city of tall spires", "the silent city" and "steeple rocks".
These brave emigrants chose some of the large granite formations to leave their signatures with axle grease, which are still very much visible today.
There are signs that clearly show visitors along the road where these signatures can be found.
Camp Rock & Register Rock
The road through the City of Rocks Reserve takes its visitors right by Camp Rock and Register Rock where they can view the signatures in axle grease left by emigrants heading for California on the California Trail between 1843 and 1882.
City of Rocks Visitor Center
The City of Rocks Reserve and nearby Castle Rock State Park has their visitor center in the historic town of Almo, which is only a few miles from both areas. This visitor center is very well done, and provides outstanding visitor information necessary to truly enjoy these remarkable areas.
There is an extremely helpful staff that are very much willing to help you with everything from hiking trail information and campsite availability.
The City of Rocks Visitor Center is open 7 days a week from mid-April to mid-October, and during the winter months, the center is open Tuesday through Saturday.
The historic town of Almo was established in 1878, and still remains an unincorporated community of extremely deep-rooted cattle ranching families. Almo provides basic services such as groceries, fuel, camping supplies, lodging, restaurants and a hot spring.
Circle Creek Overlook
Near the East Entrance of the City of Rocks Reserve is the Circle Creek Overlook (6,120 feet). There is a narrow, winding road that takes you to this remarkable overlook, and the Geological Interpretive Trail begins at the parking lot. In the distance, beyond the City of Rocks, you can see the Bear River Mountains that are over 100 miles away to the west.
Famous Geologic Landmarks
As you drive through the City of Rocks, signs will also direct you to some of the most famous granite structures such as Elephant Rock, Bath Rock and Morning Glory Spire, Bread Loaves Monolith, just to name a few.
The City of Rocks Reserve is one of the most popular camping destinations in Southern Idaho, with the most popular time of year being between April and November. There are 64 absolutely fantastic camping spots found throughout the City of Rocks Reserve, many of them tucked withing granite boulders and fins, and many are shaded by juniper, mountain mahogany, pine and aspen.
All campsites have a fire ring/grill and picnic table, and many have well-defined tent pads. There are clean vault toilets in the central camping areas, and drinking water is available at Bath Rock and Emery Pass Picnic Area. There is a fee to use these campsites, and reservations are recommended on most holidays and weekends, as well as nearly every night during the month of June. There are also a back country camping area located at Indian Grove.
The camping opportunities in the City of Rocks are fantastic!
There are over 22 miles of hiking trails found in the City of Rocks National Reserve that lead to remarkable structures such as windows, dramatic overlooks and arches.
These trails vary from extremely easy to being quite steep and strenuous. There are short walks available, as well as all-day hikes that take hikers deep into the back country.
Popular Easy Hikes:
Creekside Towers Trail (0.6 miles)
Bath Rock Trail ((1,800 foot loop)
Window Arch Trail (300 feet one way)
Longer Popular Hikes:
Flaming Rock Trail (strenuous 0.75 miles)
North Fork Circle Creek Trail (6.3 miles)
Geological Interpretive Trail (1.2 mile loop)
Hikers enjoying the view from Window Arch in the City of Rocks National Reserve.
Castle Rocks State Park
Located just a few miles north of City of Rocks National Reserve is Castle Rocks State Park.
Castle Rocks State Park is another "city" in itself, made of the same geology as the City of Rocks... and we highly recommend that you explore this remarkable area. The granite formations are absolutely breathtaking, and there are several fantastic hiking trails that take you through the heart of Castle Rocks State Park. In addition to outstanding scenery, there are also several pictographs located throughout the state park. The Visitor Center for Castle Rocks State Park is the same center as for the City of Rocks National Reserve, and is located in the town of Almo.
Castle Rocks State Park is located just north of City of Rocks National Reserve and is a gorgeous and fascinating area that is well worth your time exploring!
City of Rocks State Park provides fascinating geological formations as well as wonderful hiking and rock climbing opportunities.
Smoky Mountain Campground
Part of the Castle Rocks State Park, the Smoky Mountain Campground is located near the east entrance of the City of Rocks, where 38 campsites are available. There is a camp host located at site 32, and each campsite is equipped with 30 amp electrical service, water and picnic tables.
Popular Hikes in Castle Rock State Park:
Backyard Boulders Trail (2 mile loop)
Castle Rocks Trail (5 miles loop)
There is of course outstanding rock climbing opportunities in Castle Rock State Park, and the staff at the Visitor Center located in Almo will be more than willing to help you with this information.
City of Rocks Back Country Byway
Beginning at Albion along Idaho State Highway 77, the fifty mile long City of Rocks Back Country Byway takes its travelers through fascinating country that has both historical and geological significance. As the City of Rocks Back Country Byway circles the Albion Mountain Range, it passes through the City of Rocks National Reserve and a section of the California Trail on its way to the historic town of Oakley, which marks the end of this fascinating and scenic Idaho Byway. The entire town of Oakley is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a "must see" while visiting this historic area.