City of Rocks National
City of Rocks
courtesy National Park
"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
Nestled against the
peaks of the Albion Mountain Range and spanning more than 14,000 acres
is the City of Rocks National Reserve. The reserve provides
numerous scenic views of spectacular granite spires, unusual
sculptured rock formations, age old forest stands, alpine meadows, and
remnants of the
Before the white man
emigrated to the west, the area was called home primarily to the
Shoshone-Bannock tribes who roamed the area hunting buffalo and
The first non-Indians
to see the area were Peter Skene Ogeden and his Snake River band of
beaver trappers in 1826. However, the trappers were disappointed
when they found no beaver and the area was left to the
Indians for the next 17 years.
Beginning in the
early 1840’s, a growing number of wagons began to pass through the
area, guided by experienced mountain men such as Joseph B. Chiles and
Joseph R. Walker. At this time, Granite Pass was actually part
of Mexican territory and less than a mile from
Later wagon parties
followed the trails themselves, without mountain guides. By
1843, the trail through theCity of Rocks was officially known as the
and the site became a landmark for emigrants to mark their progress as
they neared to their final destinations.
By 1846, hardy
travelers headed for
Willamette Valley used this route as part of the Applegate Trail, and
two years later, in 1848 the Mormon Battalion opened the trail from
Granite Pass via emigrant Canyon to Salt Lake.
When gold was
the trickle of emigrants became a flood as thousands of prospectors
and families made their way to the Golden State in hopes of finding
their fortunes. According to some statistics, over 70,000
emigrants used the
California Trail in 1849 and 1850 alone.
Many of these early pioneers wrote their
names in axle grease upon the rock faces, which can still be seen
today on the northern edge of the Great Basin Desert.
Later, numerous freight
and stage routes ambled through the City of Rocks
and what would become Boise,
After 1850 the area
became part of
Territory, and in 1872 the
boundary survey placed the City of Rocks
With completion of the
transcontinental railroad in 1869, the overland wagon routes began to be
used less often, with the exception regional supply routes. John Halley's
stage route connected the railroad at Kelton,
mining activities in Boise which supplied much of the early economic
Idaho. A stage station was set up near the junction of the old
and the Salt Lake Alternate.
In the late 19th century,
homesteaders began to filter into the City of Rocks
area, practicing dry land farming and ranching. Farming declined
drastically during the drought years of the 1920s and 30s, but ranching
survived, continuing even yet today.
The area’s long history,
coupled with beautiful scenery and recreational opportunities led to its
designation as the City of Rocks National Reserve on November 18, 1988.
activities abound including hiking, wildlife viewing, camping,
backpacking, cross country skiing, and horseback riding. The City of Rocks
is also known to be one of the finest technical rock climbing sites
anywhere in the world, with 100-300 foot spires providing the climbing
The City of Rocks Visitor Center is located in Almo, Idaho
and an all-weather route through Almo is open year-round. The road via
Oakley is closed during winter months.
The City of Rocks National Reserve is administered cooperatively by the National
Park Service and the
Department of Parks and Recreation.
Directions: The reserve is located 45 miles
south of Burley,
From Boise and the west, take I-84 to Declo exit 216 and south to Idaho
route 77 to Albion, Elba, and Almo. From Pocatello and Idaho Falls, take
I-86 & I-84 to the Declo exit and then south to Almo. From Salt Lake City
take I-15 north to Tremonton, then west on I-84 to Snowville and then
routes 30 and 42, or continue north on I-84 to Sublette exit 245 and go
west toward Malta, Elba, and Almo.
City of Rocks National
P.O. Box 169
of America, updated April, 2017.
City of Rocks
If you like what you see, sign
up for our
newsletter and we'll provide you with updates when we add new
Bath Rock, courtesy National Parks Service.
From Legends' General Store
America Idaho DVD - Potatos, Ketchum/Sun Valley, Trailing
Sheep Festival, Silver Creek Fly Fishing, Arco Nuclear Lab/Craters of the
Moon, Hyde Driftboats, Henry's Fork Foundation, Teton Dam Museum, Hell's
Canyon Mail Boat, Logging, Cataldo Mission.