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.
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.
Here is a driving map.
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!
(then click Reserve Now!)
Campsites are $12.75/night + a Reservation fee of $10.60
View camping details here.
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.
Free, BLM camping is available nearby – please google that on your own. Camping is also available at Castle Rocks State Park for roughly $20/night.
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 at the “City” has been popular since the 1970s, as there are now over 600 routes here, both trad and sport. Climbs vary from 30-600 ft, and 5.6 to 5.14. Know nothing about climbing but want to try? City of Rocks does host a “Climbing Experience Program” where all gear is provided and guides educate and set up easier routes for you to get a feel for the rock. Call the Visitor Center for rates/reservations at 208-824-5901. If you have all your own gear, this is a great place to try out new routes and climb on pluton, quartzite, and green creek complex rock. Learn more about the geology here.
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!
If anything makes me feel better, it’s food! After two days of climbing it was time to stop by Rock City for pizza and beer. They only serve pizza from 12-8pm (and not on Tuesday or Wednesday’s at all), and we just happened to get there right at noon. There are only 6 options to choose from, or you can make your own. It’s pretty good pizza! Rock City also has a very small grocery store.
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.
Just down the road, the Tracy Store, has a few groceries options as well plus the BEST homemade cookies ever. They also have gas, ice, firewood, milkshakes, etc.
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