"CIRO Scenic View of Elephant Rock" by Wallace Keck , public domain
City of Rocks
City of Rocks City of Rocks National Reserve Idaho Sculpted granite rocks invite exploration. Hikers explore Elephant Rock. Autumn aspen leaves provide striking color in the heart of the “City.” © dave bower NPs © Antonio Plascencia Emigrants left record of their passing in axle grease. National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation Window Arch illustrates the creative weathering of granite. © dave bower NPS Trails and Travelers Wagon routes were rarely used after completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. Regional supply and stagecoach routes connected communities with depots. The City of Rocks stage station provided refreshment and lodging. Homesteaders moved here in the 1870s to graze cattle and dryland farm. This same ranching lifestyle continues today. As part of the largest overland emigrant route in American history, the Reserve preserves the most intact and authentic setting of the California Trail. City of Rocks is a landmark and refuge that inspires all who visit. Emigrant journals describe this sculpted granite city as displaying steeples, cathedrals, pyramids, windows, and bathtubs. Some described the rocks and processes that may have formed them. Even today, the complex geology attracts professors and students alike. The 14,407-acre Reserve exhibits what some scientists call a biogeographic crossroads, where many plants and animals are on the edge of their habitat range. Some plants and animals of the Great Basin, rarely occur farther north of here, like pinyon pine, pinyon jay, and ringtail. Colorado columbine, common in the Rocky Mountains, occur no farther west. Longhorn plectritis, slim larkspur, and western columbine occur here, but rarely east. These overlapping ecological areas provide scientists and students an opportunity to observe the ebb and flow of living communities, which can be early warning signs or predictors of ecological change. City of Rocks is located in the Basin and Range physiographic province. The granite pluton of the ancient Green Creek Complex and the significantly younger Almo Pluton are best exposed here in the southern Albion Mountains. While only the tips of the plutons are visible, these ancient granites are like an open window into the earth’s crust. Arrowleaf balsamroot is one of the more common and showy flowers of the sagebrush steppe. Once exposed, granite is subjected to weathering by wind, freezing and thawing water, salt, and other naturally corrosive chemicals. These forces work to create pinnacles, panholes, honeycombs, windows, and arches. Self-discovery of these unusual granite sculptures awaits the modern-day explorer along nearly every trail. Over 750 species of plants and animals have been documented within the Reserve. A few species of special interest include cliff chipmunk, Virginia warbler, Simpson’s hedgehog cactus, and pinyon pine. GRE © Mary Sanseverino Rough-legged hawk NPS IDA HO SN AKE ER RIV A PL IN A I N S U N T M O Over 200,000 emigrants followed the California Trail through City of Rocks, a name coined by James F. Wilkins, emigrant and artist, in August 1849. Weary by the time they arrived, many found delight and inspiration at this geologic marvel. In 1857 Helen Carpenter wrote . . . women ad children wadered off to enjoy the sights of the city. We were . . . spellbound with the beauty and strangeness of it all. . . . Here they rested, grazed stock, and left their names and messages on the rocks. Many were forced to lighten loads, leaving behind precious items before embarking on the most dangerous part of their trek—Granite Pass, Forty Mile Desert, and the Sierra Nevada. Ecological Crossroads Y C K R O Between 1843 and 1882 a mass migration of people headed west. They first sought land, but in 1848 the discovery of gold in California enticed thousands to hit the trail seeking their fortune. Travelers packed tools, food, books, clothes, furniture, and family heirlooms—everything needed to build a new life in a land of promise. The first emigrants followed the landmarks described by fur trappers and early explorers. Others soon followed wagon ruts and published descriptions. They braved weather, hunger, thirst, disease, accidents, and attacks. Many buried loved ones along the way. The obstacles were enormous, but so was the desire for a better life. Nature’s Sculptures City of Rocks NEV ADA GREA T S A LT LAKE UTA H AT B ASIN Circle Creek Basin at sunrise. © dwight parish Slim larkspur © Aaron Arthur Pinyon jay © Stephen Parsons Gray flycatcher © Larry Selman Cliff chipmunk Green-tailed towhee Longhorn plectritis Great basin sagebrush Western columbine Juniper titmouse © tony godfrey © Larry Selman © Paul Slichter NPS nps © alison sheehey 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 F. Wilkins, emigrant and artist,1849 Castle Rocks State Park Castle Rocks State Park, near City of Rocks National Reserve, includes outstanding rock formations and early 1900s ranch, trails, lodge, and bunkhouse. Activities include birding, horseback riding, hiking, picnicking, rock climbing, and snowshoeing. Reservations for Smoky Mountain Campground and yurts are recommended in summer and can be made online at http://parksandrecreation.idaho. gov, or by calling 1-888-922-6743. Motor vehicle entrance fee, annual pass, or Idaho state parks passport required. More Information Castle Rocks State Park PO Box 169 Almo, Idaho 83312-0169 http://parksandrecreation.idaho. gov/parks/castlerocks.aspx Climbing is one of the more popular recreational activities in the Reserve. nps World Class Rock Climbing City of Rocks is internationally renowned Safety Do not climb unless you for rock climbing. The granite spires range have training and experience. Seri- from 30 to 600 feet high. Their textured ous accidents can occur when rock rock is tailor-made for both sport and scrambling. There are no signs or traditional climbing. City of Rocks offers a fences to warn you about natural mixture of moderate (5.6–5.9) and ad- cliffs and crevices. Parents should vanced climbs (5.10–5.13), often found use caution with children around side by side. Single and multi-pitch routes these features. span features and challenges that require a full range of technique and style not In summer, park staff give climbing generally found in one climbing area. demonstrations. The Climbing Expe- About 700 routes have been developed. rience Program offers a supervised All climbers should become familiar with climbing experience with our staff the Reserve’s climbing guides, closures, for a small fee (equipment provided). and regulations. Information is posted at Commercial climbing guides operate the Bath Rock kiosk and is available at the within the Reserve. Ask at the visitor visitor center or website. Registration or center for a list of permitted and permits are not required to climb. Climb- authorized guides. ing is not permitted on rocks within the California Trail corridor. A wired nut in a crack is a form of protection for the climber. © duncan patterson Planning Your Visit City of Rocks National Reserve offers scenic walks near the California Trail, photography, world-class technical rock climbing, hiking, birding, mountain biking, horseback riding, picnicking, and camping. Visitor Center The visitor center for City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park is in Almo, ID (see maps). Stop there for information on things to do, road conditions, restrictions that may be in effect, and to see the exhibits. Books, maps, and other park-related items to help you enjoy the Reserve are also available. Services and Facilities Restaurants, gas, lodging, and groceries are available in Almo and other nearby communities. Park facilities are primitive. Potable water is available at the hand-pump wells at Emery Pass Picnic Area and Bath Rock. This water is for drinking; help us keep the water source safe for all. Treat any other water for drinking by boiling, chemicals, or adequate filtration. Hiking Over 22 miles of hiking trails lead to climbing areas, striking features and dramatic overlooks. Always carry water and monitor the weather. Elevation ranges from 5,720 to 8,867 feet. Stay on trails to reduce the chance of becoming lost. Take note of major landmarks like Granite Peak or Smoky Mountain before departing. Tell someone where you are going. Riding in the back country. © nps Camping Camping fees and regulations are enforced. Camp in designated areas only. Cutting vegetation and gathering firewood are prohibited. Vault toilets and water stations are centrally located. Most sites include a tent pad, picnic table, and grill. Permits are required for overnight backcountry use and are available at the visitor center. Reservations are recommended for summer and can be made online at http://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov, or by calling 888-922-6743, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm Mountain Time. Hunting Hunting is allowed in some areas. Before hunting, contact the Idaho Fish and Game Department for information and regulations or ask at the visitor center. ”Shooting” or target practice is not permitted in the Reserve. For information on firearms regulations, check the park website. More Information City of Rocks National Reserve PO Box 169 Almo, ID 83312-0169 203-824-5901 www.nps.gov/ciro Accessibility We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. The Reserve is a mostly undeveloped primitive area. More information is available on our website or at the visitor center. City of Rocks National Reserve is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more, visit www.nps.gov. Follow us on Facebook. ✩GPO:20xx—xxx-xxx/xxxxx Reprint 20xx Printed on recycled paper.