Adventure October 6, 2010

The City that Rocks

A place created 2.5 billion years ago by nature is now a modern-day playground for every kind of outdoor enthusiast. Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, located about 170 miles from Sun Valley, offers climbing, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and camping in the Albion Mountains near Almo.

The 14,300-acre National Reserve’s varied elevation—ranging from sea level to 6,500 feet, the same as the town of Ketchum—fosters a dramatic and varied landscape. Desert vegetation such as sagebrush and piñon pines gives way to forests of quaking aspen and mountain mahogany. Wildflowers burst forth in breathtaking abundance in the summer, adding to the scenic variety. More than 450 different plant species have been identified and recorded at the City of Rocks.

Part of Idaho’s Minidoka Bird Refuge, the Reserve is a haven for mountain bluebirds (Idaho’s state bird), eagles, hawks, falcons, and vultures. Mammals found within the park’s borders include bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, porcupines, elk, and mule deer.

What the City is primarily known for, however, is its rocks. As far back as 1849, an early pioneer, James Wilkins, wrote, “We are encamped at the city of rocks, a noted place from the granite rocks rising abruptly out of the ground.” The park features about 700 climbing routes on ideal, granite-crag rock formations, some of which are 2.5 billion years old—among the oldest in the continental United States.

Camping is available at designated sites for a cost of $7 per night; for a nonrefundable $6 fee, sites can be reserved. Within the park, one restroom and a few campsites are wheelchair accessible. Temperatures can fluctuate widely, from nighttime lows around freezing to daytime highs near 100 degrees. For details, contact the City of Rocks at 208.824.5519.




This article appears in the Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.