re-sized city of rocks idaho

Rock Climbing in Southern Idaho


Long been a favourite topic of ours on this blog, we came across a great rock climbing area that some people certainly know about, but others of you might like to know about.

City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho.

City of Rocks

This reserve is part of the United States National Park System and is best known for rock climbing. Enthusiasts come to wander and climb through the maze of massive boulders – some over 100 meters tall… some of the granite in this area is more than 2.5 billion years old.

Hiking, mountain biking and horse riding are also popular pastimes. There are miles of trails in City of Rocks along with more in Castle Rocks State Park and many of the longer trails take you through the Sawtooth National Forest. The City of Rocks National Reserve is more than 14,000 acres.

The eroded granite rocks of the Albion Range were first seen by early pioneers in the mid-1800’s when the California Trail – the main route to the gold mines, was routed through the area. The pioneers referred to the area as “The Silent City of Rocks” and left axle-grease grafitti on many of the rock towers to mark their passing … we haven’t changed much have we!

“We encamped at the City of the Rocks, a noted place from the granite rocks rising abruptly out of the ground. They are in a romantic valley clustered together, which gives them the appearance of a city.”

– James Wilkins, one of the first wagon travelers through the area, 1849

The Albion Mountains stretch for 50 km between the Idaho/Utah border to the south and the Snake River Plain to the north. Before the white man emigrated to the west, the area was the home of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes who roamed the area hunting buffalo and gathering nuts from the Pinyon Pine trees – a people who were far more assimilated to the country than we have ever been.


City of Rock in southern Idaho

Visitors to this area increased dramatically in the 1980’s when word of the spectacular spires reached a broader audience. To protect the region the Idaho State Parks Department approached the National Park Service with a proposal for co-management, and this resulted in the City of Rocks National Reserve in the early 1990’s.

The City of Rocks is a bizarre landscape of fins, spires, hollow boulders, deep weathering pits, natural arches,and other unusual features that have resulted from many processes including weathering along joints, faults and dikes, case-hardening, sapping by groundwater and erosion. There are also pinyon pines and juniper tree stands and alpine-like meadows.

This area is one of the finest granite-crag rock-climbing sites anywhere. About 700 routes have been described to date. One hundred-to 300 foot spires provide most of the climbing opportunities, although there are 600 foot spires which provide all-day adventures. Privately published climbing guides are available for sale at Reserve headquarters, and are the best source of information for the serious climber. Check at headquarters for climbing restrictions.

This video pretty well says it all. Thanks to adventurecrew for posting it.

The primary dangers while staying in the park are the natural elements. The high elevation of the park ensures that the weather changes constantly. In the summer, hot days coupled with cold nights are the norm and it is not uncommon to experience snow during any time of the year. Wind and rain can also be extreme and dangerous to the unprepared visitor. Though coyotes and cougars are common in the area, wildlife does not pose much of a threat in the park as long as food is not left in the open.

Don’t forget your sunscreen.

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