City of Rocks is a mecca of climbing, just over the Utah/Idaho border in rural Idaho. Varnished and pocketed granite is the name of the game here. The granite ages with an iron based varnish on it and when the varnish wears through, it forms pockets that wear faster than the varnish. The result is pockets with edges or just edges. The majority of the routes have mixed protection, so caution or knowledge is required as the bolts may stop halfway up the route.
Camping is permitted in City of Rocks in developed sites that they charge for. Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance. The town of Almo has the nearest refreshments and food at the Almo Creek Outpost as well as Rock City.
The history here is rich and deserves mentioning. The City of Rocks went by many names early on; Goblin City, Chapel Rocks, Pyramid Circle, and Ancient City were just a few of the monikers that were utilized by the early emigrants. They came through the area on their way to California for a better life, and the rock formations that take on many shapes and figures were a perfect landmark for them to use. As more and more of them came through they left their mark on some of the formations with axle grease.
The climbing history essentially began with the Steinfell Club in the early 1960's. As climbing grew in popularity so too did the impact of climbers. To preserve the nature and resources of the area, the NPS enacted strict rules on the bolting of new routes and also closed certain areas to climbing.
To get to City of Rocks, take I-15 north to I-84 to Snowville. At Snowville, take exit 5 and go west on SR 30 for 15 miles. After SR 30 becomes Idaho SR 42, continue for another 9 miles until you hit 3600 south (Strevell Road). Go west on this road for about 17 miles. Turn right at the "Y" in the road and right one more time on Yost road. After 3 miles, you'll make a left turn onto Eye Rd. and stay on this road for 5 miles. Turn right on 825 East and then turn left immediately on 3075 South. Continue on this road into the City of Rocks.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for City of Rocks:
THis route is located just left of Redtail. It climbs the arete just left of the black streak. Begin on block ten feet left of Red Tail. Do some slabby climbing through the first few bolts then clip up to the steep feature arete. Fight constant barn dooring as you pinch, lieback and edge your way to the chains. Might as well climb it. ...[more]Browse More Classics in ID
This is the best summer/fall weekend road trip from SLC.
Beware, however, that there are many selfish inconsiderate people climbing in the City. See for example the toproping story on Wheat Thin. Another example: I waited around to climb Intruding Dike (a great 5.7**) while another party was on it. There was a second party on the route to the right. When the group on ID finished, I went to get on it. The guy leading the route to the right yelled down at me ``Hey, I'm next on that route!'' Apparantly he is under the impression that you can reserve routes while climbing others. Nevermind the fact that I waited around at the bottom for the climb to free up, while he decided to go climb something else (``I only got on this one because I didn't want to wait around at the bottom,'' he said). It turns out that the guy I was waiting on was this other guy's friend. He says, ``Yup, he was next on this one.'' I shook my head and told him that my rope is there, stacked, my gear is racked, and I'm ready to go; and he could get on it after me, that is if nobody got in line before he got down. Climbing Ethics used to be simple neighborly courtesy. Something has seriously changed.
I've seen such selfishness elsewhere, but it seems I always see it in the City.
Good for you, Bobby. I think that newbies think that they can just reserve routes for their convenience. The same thing happened to me in Eldorado Canyon, recently. I was unfurling my rope, to do a route, and a guy ran up the path, from about 300' away, to tell me that he was waiting in line. He had taken his gear with him and gone back to his car to have lunch. I laughed and told him that he might as well go back and enjoy his desert, because it was going to be awhile.
I shouldn't have singled out newbies, as bad manners aren't endemic to any particular person of group. This type of behavior does seem more common in the last few years. It is possible that it is a by-product of gym etiquette, where people leave their rope at the base of a route and then hang out in another part of the gym while they wait.
For what it is worth, those of you that may be making your first visit to the City, you will be happy to know (maybe) that the grades, in my opinion, are either right on or a little soft. I have yet to come to a route that was sandbagged. They either are the grade or easier. I am reminded of this every time I am there. It's semi-comforting to know that you aren't going to climb and get in over your head.
The directions listed here (and in the Bingham guidebook) take you over a lot of dirt roads. Alternate, perhaps faster, directions from the South/East (Utah, Colorado, etc): Take I-84 west all the way to exit 245 (Sublett Road). This will take you through Malta and then on to Almo. The roads are ID-81 to ID-77 to the Elba-Almo Highway. This route adds a small amount of mileage, but the roads are entirely paved and you can travel much faster.
Gas can sometimes be had at Tracy's general store in Almo. There is also a good gas station in the town of Malta that takes credit cards at the pump.
Water is available at a tap at the information pullout across from Bath Rock or at the pump by the Breadloaves.
If you make reservations, you have to make them at least two days in advance. Every campsite was booked for Fourth of July weekend this year ('06), and I hear this is common. Reservations can easily be made online, but there's a $6 fee to do so.
I did some climbing @ Site 18 on a trip in July, I was wondering if a local could post the beta for that area... I remember a couple of 5.7's in the middle of the wall, a 5.8 on the left(super fun), and a 5.9 on the right(also super fun)... Can't remeber the names though. I thought site 18 was a great morning get away. Wasn't crowded, but shady for most of the morning. It would be a great addition to MP...
If you ever see some old codgers driving around in beat up trucks, be sure to talk to them. One guy we talked to had a veritable museum in his rig including an old trapper rifle (Winchester??) from way out back somewhere in the City.
The local gas station is(was) closed on Sunday. Plan accordingly...
all true about the grades i felt as well when i used to climb there, that they are felt to me to be right on or alittle soft. the exception to this is double cracks 5.10a on king on the throne. try it and see what you think, especially onsite.
I am curious what the weather is like in mid-March at the city??
By John Ross From: Salt Lake City, UT Jan 26, 2009
Here is some info about the climate in Oakley which is close by. Average high temp in March is 50.8 degrees F, average low temp is 27.7. Find a sunny wall in the afternoon and it just might work. This site will give you weather history.
I, uhh, climbed back on 18 January on the back side of Bath Rock. No wind, perfect temps, t-shirt for me, my partner climbed shirtless. So, if its sunny and no wind, can be just fine most any time in the winter. Note: road only passible to Bath Rock (snowpacked past that, but, plowed to the big parking lot/info kiosk in front of Bath Rock as of 18 January). Cheers.
I have never been there, but I'm thinking of stopping there on an extended roadtrip, possible sometime in August. Would it be too hot then? How long could I reasonable plan to stay? Is there enough climbing to entertain me for a few weeks (looking at mostly 5.11-5.12, preferably trad, but whatever). Anyways, thanks in advance for all the great beta! -Scott
2. All of the camp sites are cool, but there are wide differences between them. Some are right next to climbing areas, some are a little further. Some are close to the bathrooms, some you need to DRIVE to get to the bathrooms. Here's the best map I have found:
3. There is a little store/cafe called "rock city" that is about a quarter of a mile north of the turn off to city of rocks. They have pizza and sandwiches, all hand made to your order, while you watch and the food is wonderful.
whats up with non-standardized anchors at the City?! had a real experienced friend dropped as the rope ran through his balayers hands! guess you need a 70m rope to get off some climbs?! there was no note on anchor or clue to this anomaly anywhere! He is still recovering.
stredna- whats up with non-standardized anchors at the City?! had a real experienced friend dropped as the rope ran through his balayers hands! guess you need a 70m rope to get off some climbs?! there was no note on anchor or clue to this anomaly anywhere! He is still recovering.
"i'd love to finish this route up that beautiful patina face, however it exceeds a 60 meter rope length?"
i'm sorry to hear about your friend as well, but there are only two people to blame here.
as far as your clue goes, check the opening paragraphs of just about all city of rock guides, somewhere you will find something to the effect of: making a mistake when climbing can kill you. in recent years the most common mistake is lowering off fixed anchors. when in doubt tie into the end of the rope or tie a knot at the end. i think the Bingham guide even lists the most common routes to look out for?
This will just get worse as ropes get smaller in diameter and longer in length. Years ago the 50 meter rope was standard now I see companies selling up to 100 meter ropes. When I go in June I am taking two 70 meter ropes knowing that one rope will be enough on much of what I am planning to climb but will be more than enough for those extra long rappels.
Also, mark the 1/2 way point on your ropes so your partner can tell when you are in too deep for just 1 rope.
Looking for a level site to park VW pop-up camper van. Would like to be in the middle area near Bath Rock/Windows Arch, in the 30s or 40s. Anyone have beta about sites in a that are definitely NOT level or are likely good and level?
Can anyone confirm if Dave Bingham's current guide is Edition 7. The reason I ask is Amazon states it as being published in 2004 but I have read comments that the 2006 edition has better pictures and topo's for finding routes. I am wondering if they are the same edition. Is there any word of an updated edition coming out or any new guides of the area?
Total aside but is there any good places to swim in the area? Lakes, Rivers etc.
Less than 10 minutes if you're camping for free on the BLM land south of town. It's maybe 15 to 20 minutes depending on your campsite in the Reserve.
Rock City is a nice little store at the south end of town where you turn to drive up into CoR. They have plenty of beer and make pizza and sandwiches too. It's a nice place to hang out after a day of climbing. You can also access the wifi from the BLM office nearby. You'll need to register for it and they'll give you 30 minutes a day for free. Ask the people in the store for more details.