City of Rocks National Reserve is located near Almo, Idaho and is a popular area for climbing, hiking, camping, and learning about geology and local history. This area has several nicknames such as “the silent city”, just “the city”, and “steeple rocks”, but whatever you want to call it, you’re sure to find some adventure here. This area is rich with history, as pioneers made their way through this area along the California Trail. Several rocks, cabins, and replica wagons are marked with historical markers.
City of Rocks is open year-round with the in-season being May-September and the off-season being October-April. Weather and temperatures can range wildly, so be prepared for any kind of weather. There is no water in the campground, but there is a spigot just outside of the Visitor Center and at Bath Rocks, unless the pipes freeze. The City is very kid friendly, with lots of small rocks to walk around on safely. Kids will enjoy some of the easier climbs as well, such as Kid Rock (nearby in Castle Rocks State Park)! The city is dog friendly as well, however, dogs need to remain on-leash at all times. Because of this, we decided to not bring Charlie along on this trip. We felt he would have more fun running off leash with his dog pals in SLC. There is no cell service, except for in the small town of Elba & Conner, Idaho (about 15 minutes from City of Rocks).
From SLC head North on I-80, then North on I-84 towards Boise, ID. Take exit 245 when you see the large brown sign for City of Rocks National Preserve. From here continue following the signs until you reach the preserve. It’s roughly a 3 hour drive from SLC. The roads in the “city” are well-graded, so even small cars can drive through.
The roads are a little washboardy, but all cars should make it slowly.
Entering City of Rocks!
In September the morning and even temperatures were cool, but it got up to 84F during the day!
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Campsites are $12.75/night + a Reservation fee of $10.60
We stayed 2 nights so it was a total of $36.04. These campsites do fill up quickly, and we had to make our reservation about 6 weeks in advance. Even then, half of the campsites had already been reserved. The early you can do it, the better.
Hanging out in our campsite.
We decided to bring my older tent since it’s free standing, and what happens?? We forgot the tent poles! I wasn’t too bummed. I’ve been wanting a car I could sleep in ever since I sold my last SUV in 2015 and I bought this used Forester in June, and it’s been perfect for road trips! Since we brought along the crash pad for climbing, we just laid it out in the car as our mattress and slept on that with the hatch open. We made sure to turn off all the lights and unplug everything so we didn’t run the battery out, and it was perfect! Thankfully there were no mosquitos or other bugs out.
He makes the coffee, I make the bacon!
Can you see the yellow tent next to the tree? That’s how close your neighbors are here. We rarely camp in an actual campground and we aren’t used to being able to see, hear, watch our neighbors (not to mention the 10 kids running around loudly). You don’t really have any privacy in this campground. I would say that is the one major downside to camping here. We were gone during a bulk of the day anyway, but in the morning/evening it was weird for us to camp like that.
Another pic of a campsite near us…no privacy at all. This campsite has actually been closed to the public (not sure why).
(Photo by @iBoyer, 2010)
Window Arch is a one minute walk, down 300 ft. It’s super short so its great for kids. The arch is best views at sunrise and sunset. Make sure you make a quick stop here!
Another view of Window Arch.
The Circle Creek Rock House
Built in 1904, this house has 18 inch-thick rock walls, which provided excellent insulation, keeping the house cool in summer, and warm in winter. The Tracy Family lived in this house for 5 years. Visitors are not allowed to walk through – please enjoy from the fence.
Climbing is also available at the nearby, City of Rocks State Park. There is a $5 entrance fee, but otherwise the routes are endless here as well. To be honest, I can’t remember any of the names of the routes we climbed, but this was from one of my favorites, on a 5.7 route.
Hanging out on an anchor before I get ready to climb up again, on a multi pitch route.
Ian repels himself down.
Working up an easier 5.6 route in the city. Mornings and evenings are the best time to climb here – during the day it can be quite hot (depending on the month you go). One side of the rock will be in the shade and is much more comfortable for climbing.
Can you spot the two climbers on Castle Rock?
Hanging out on the anchor, enjoying the view.
One of the hardest climbs I did – Cruel Shoes (5.7). For some reason, I just really struggled mentally with this route, and felt like the hand holds were too small for me. I almost had two asthma attacks, and when I reached the first pitch I told Ian I couldn’t go further on this one. That’s one of the big snuggles I have with climbing – I hate the feeling of not being able to complete something (I guess it’s part of being a perfectionist). The name was also fitting because my shoes were literally tearing up my heels on this route from putting so much pressure on them. It was a rough climb, but in the end Ian always helps me calm down and smile a little. He’s a great teacher, and the only person I trust to climb with outdoors. Love this guy!
In 2019 I got a campsite about 6 months in advance and we got a way better spot! The earlier you can get a campsite the better choices you’ll have.
My first chimney style climb! It was tough but I enjoyed it.
Such cool climbs! This year I felt way more confident and successful on my climbs. It also helped that the temperatures were way cooler (85F in 2018 vs 60F in 2019). The heat just wears me out while climbing, so this was a much better time of year to climb here.
I also really liked having another friend along. Three people is ideal for me because it gives me time to rest in between climbs and recover. My friend Amy climbed her first 5.10!
The Fall colors are also much better in October!
Showing off climbing skills!
What a beautiful weekend!
There’s also a ton of beer options – you grab whatever you want from the cold case, drink it, then you pay for everything when you are done. We knew we weren’t in Utah anymore when we were allowed to just grab whatever we wanted haha!
The seating are is kind of fun with all the license plates, plus you can grab a magazine from about 100 climbing and outdoor mags to entertain and motivate yourself while you wait for food. Rock City also has the best groceries options in case you run out of food or have a craving for ice cream bars.
YouTube video coming soon!
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