At City of Rocks National Reserve in Almo, Idaho, you can enjoy one of the most gorgeous and pristine places in the entire United States for breathtaking scenery, stimulating hiking, challenging rock climbing, and primitive camping. Towering granite rock spires inspire the imagination, as they allude to an ancient lost city. There is plenty of history as well, including signs of the 1840s-through-1880s pioneers who were heading west on California Trail; they were the first to describe this area as “a city of steeple rocks” with “tall spires.” Best of all, you can experience most of it in your car.
Enter from the Almo side of the reserve, as you begin your time at the red brick Visitors Center. It looks like a private home, but it is small but mighty, with a good selection of books about the rock formations and on the subject of the pioneer trail that you will see in the reserve. There is an exhibit about the covered wagons, as well. The people at the Visitors Center go out of their way to be accommodating. Here you can obtain a map and the $5.00 guidebook to the geological trail.
Plan to drive through the City of Rocks Reserve. Be aware that the park’s roads are not paved. You will want to find out what the road conditions are before you set out. You do not want to bring a motorhome or trailer on this drive. With the help of the map and guidebook, plan your drive, which can take between four and six hours, based on how often you stop for photographs.
If you like to hike, please do. Hike the mile-and-a-half long Geological Interpretive Hike. Enjoy the short Window Trail and the Creekside Tower Trail. Window Arch is possibly the most-photographed feature of the reserve; make a memory there. You are guaranteed to appreciate the view from Circle Creek Overlook, and checking out the named formations such as Elephant Rock, Creekside Towers, the Twin Sisters, Bread Loaves, Balanced Rock, Treasure Rock, the Kaiser’s Helmet, Nematode Rock and Teakettle Rock.
If you wish, reserve a spot on the Rock Climbing Experience at the Visitors Center. The cost is $20 per person, which includes the shoes, helmets, and climbing harness. Even beginners will love the experience. Bath Rock is easy enough to climb without gear, and without too much effort you can climb the 6-pitch 5.8-mile route on Steinfells Dome.
A highlight of a visit to the reserve is seeing the signatures of some of the hundreds of thousands of pioneers who were making their way west and stopped to record their passing on the granite rocks. Registry Rock is the place where the pioneers from the California Trail wrote their names and dates on the rock in axle grease. If you look for them, you will also be able to see wagon ruts. You can look down the trail, to see its junction with the Salt Lake alternative trail. The rocks are amazing throughout the entire reserve. Historic ranches are scattered here and there; some of them are still in use while others are abandoned, romantic ruins.
What You Might See
Wildlife abounds. You may see hawks and owls, Rufus, Black Chin, and Broadtail hummingbirds, bighorn sheep, and watch out for rattlesnakes. The “City of Rocks” is located in a broad valley of juniper, pinon, and sagebrush.
Stock up on bottled water and provisions for meals, and whatever else you may need long before you arrive at the reserve. Thinking about staying in the reserve? The campsites are spaced far enough apart to give one a sense of privacy. Hoping to stay nearby? There are some lodging options in the gateway community of Almo. Choose from yurts, cabins, apartments, lodges, and hotel. While in the area consider also seeing the nearby Castle Rocks, State Park.