City of Rocks

Albion Arco Balanced Rock Boise Canoe Camp City of Rocks Craters of the Moon Fossil Beds Glenn's Ferry Hagerman Lava Hot Springs Lewis and Clark Minidoka  Center Nez Perce Opals Oregon Trail Orofino Payette River Pocatello Potato Museum Shoshone Falls Sun Valley

City of Rocks

California Trail Registry



The City of Rocks , also known as the Silent City of Rocks, is a U.S. National Reserve and state park lying two miles (3 km) north of the south central Idaho border with Utah. It is widely known for its excellent rock climbing and rock formations.


The rock spires in the City of Rocks and adjacent Castle Rocks State Park are largely composed of granitic rock of the Oligocene Almo pluton and Archean Green Creek Complex.


Visitor Center


The City of Rocks is a popular rock climbing area, with numerous traditional and bolt-protected routes. In the 1980s, it was home to some of the most difficult routes in the USA, mostly developed by Idaho climber Tony Yaniro. Climbers in the region refer to the area as simply 'The City'.


California Trail at Pinnacle Pass

The California Trail passed through what is now the City of Rocks. Wagon trains of the 1840s and 1850s left the Raft River valley and traveled through the area and over Granite Pass into Nevada. The names or initials of emigrants written in axle grease are still visible on Register Rock. Ruts from wagon wheels also can be seen in some of the rocks.


Registry Rock

"We encamped at the city of the rocks, a noted place from the granite rocks rising abruptly out of the ground," wrote James Wilkins in 1849. "They are in a romantic valley clustered together, which gives them the appearance of a city." Wilkins was among the first wagon travelers to fix the name City of Rocks to what looked like "a dismantled, rock-built city of the Stone Age." California Trail pioneers were leaving civilization as they knew it in the East for new lives in the West. Some wrote their names in axle grease on rock faces, and their signatures can be seen today. No doubt thirsty on this northern edge of the Great Basin Desert, one emigrant saw the distant rocks in August like "water thrown up into the air from numerous artificial hydrants." Beginning in 1843, City of Rocks was a landmark for emigrants on the California Trail and Salt Lake Alternate Trail and later on freight routes and the Kelton, Utah to Boise, Idaho stage route.


The area's historical and geological values, scenery, and opportunities for recreation led to its designation as City of Rocks National Reserve in 1988. This unit of the National Park System is managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.


The Shoshone and Bannock tribes hunted the buffalo that once roamed in the City of Rocks area and gathered the nuts of the pinyon pine trees. The return of horses to the Americas in the 16th century and swelling European immigration disrupted the Shoshone-Bannock homelands and way of life. They grew to resent the intruders but could do little to stop them. Most emigrants on the California Trail saw no Native Americans, but some of their journals record smoke signals rising from high hills and the surrounding mountains.


In 1826, Peter Skene Ogden and his Snake River brigade of beaver trappers were the first non-Native Americans to note the City of Rocks. Having few beaver, the area was ignored until 1843, when growing summer streams of wagons began flowing through the area.


Early emigrant groups were guided by experienced mountain men such as Joseph B. Chiles and Joseph R. Walker. Later wagon parties followed the trails themselves, perhaps with the help of diary accounts of previous emigrants. The City of Rocks marked progress west for the emigrants and, for their loaded wagons, a mountain passage over nearby Granite Pass. By 1846, emigrants headed for Oregon's Willamette Valley also used this route as part of the Applegate Trail. In 1848 Samuel J. Hensley pioneered the Salt Lake Alternate Trail from Salt Lake City via Emigrant Canyon to Granite Pass. In 1852, some 52,000 people passed through the City of Rocks on their way to the California goldfields.


When the trails opened in the 1840s, Granite Pass was in Mexico and less than a mile from Oregon Territory. After 1850 the Pass became part of Utah Territory, and in 1872 an Idaho-Utah boundary survey error placed Granite Pass in Idaho Territory. With completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the overland wagon routes began to pass into history. However, wagons saw continued use on regional supply routes that spread out from the railroad lines.


John Halley's stage route connected the railroad at Kelton, Utah with Idaho's mining hub of Boise, Idaho and supplied the early economic development of Idaho, which won statehood in 1890. The Kelton stage route passed through the City of Rocks, with a stage station set up near the junction of the old California Trail and the Salt Lake Alternate. Settlers began to homestead the City of Rocks area in the late 1800s. Dryland farming declined during the drought years of the 1920s and 30s, but ranching survived. Livestock grazing began with early wagon use of the area in the mid-1800s and continues today.

Text from Wikipedia




















Twin Sisters







back gate


remains of a ranch



former ranch house






California Trail Registry

Albion Arco Balanced Rock Boise Canoe Camp City of Rocks Craters of the Moon Fossil Beds Glenn's Ferry Hagerman Lava Hot Springs Lewis and Clark Minidoka  Center Nez Perce Opals Oregon Trail Orofino Payette River Pocatello Potato Museum Shoshone Falls Sun Valley

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