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Massacre Rocks

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Massacre Rocks Rock Climbing 

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 4,000'
Location: 42.67521, -112.99825 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 12,210
Administrators: WAGbag, Mike Engle, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide), Emily Roeben
Submitted By: Andy Laakmann on Nov 13, 2006
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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BETA PHOTO: 200' Main Wall as seen during the Snake River cros...


Massacre Rocks is a large natural area of sagebrush, ancient cedar trees, sand dunes, and box canyons sculpted by the Great Bonneville flood some 14,000 years ago. The flood carved numerous natural box canyons and 'alcoves' leaving steep rock walls ranging from 30' to 200' in height. The exposed basalt formations were originally formed from repeated volcanic activity in the Snake River Plain. The rock is high quality black, brown, and tan basalt. It is steep (sometimes overhanging) and heavily featured with edges, pockets, blocks, slopers, bulges, dihedrals, and cracks - perfect for much varied sport climbing.

Massacre Rocks was one of the first modern climbing areas in the United States to fully embrace the sport climbing ethic. Most of the routes here were established in the 80's and 90's.

There are over 750 well equipped sport routes at Massacre on more than two dozen different walls ranging from 30' to 200' in height. The average climb is about 60'. The "climb anywhere" nature of the rock has led to a high concentration of routes on most walls. Sometimes routes are as close as 5 or 6 feet apart which can make identifying routes a challenge. A good strategy is to count bolts. Once a route has been identified, it's easy to track routes to the right or left. This guide and the free online guide have accurate bolt counts for most route descriptions.

The sport climbs at Massacre typically have closely spaced bolts for pushing your limits. Climbs range from 5.8 to 5.13 with most being in the middle of that range. If you climb 5.10 to 5.12 and like to clip bolts, you will find a nearly endless supply of high quality sport climbing.

A rack of up to 18 quick draws will suffice on the longer routes, while the majority of climbs take six to eight. There are some natural pro lines but they are seldom climbed. For these a standard rack of cams and nuts should do the trick.

The vast majority of routes have sport anchors which are typically an open cold shut and a steel or aluminum carabiner. This makes finishing and lowering from a route convenient. Please use your own gear if you plan to top rope the route. Occasionally, the routes will have chain anchors at the top of the climb, if in doubt always bring a couple extra draws.

Most climbs at Massacre allow a leader to be lowered using a single 60 meter rope however some longer routes may require two ropes. There have been lowering accidents at Massacre, so if you are not sure, tie a knot in the end of the rope so you don’t drop your partner, or even better, take two ropes. The Owl Cove, Main Wall Area, and Eagle Wall are places to watch out for two rope descents.

The best climbing weather at Massacre is in the late fall and early spring although there are many very climbable days in the winter. Provided the sun is out, the dark rock and wind protected alcoves create micro-climates where it's possible to climb in t-shirts on 30 F winter days. These same features make climbing in the summer unbearably hot, though early morning or late evening outings on shady walls are possible.

There are currently no access issues at Massacre Rocks, however there were some issues back in 2012.

The sport climbing routes are not within the Massacre Rocks State Park boundaries (though there is fine documented bouldering within the state park). The crags reside on a combination of Idaho State land, Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) land, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. In 2012 the BLM sought to limit or close climbing due to possible cultural artifacts in the area. Ultimately, no action was taken and currently there are no restrictions on climbing on any of the Massacre Rocks land jurisdictions. Most of the popular crags and climbs are on Idaho State Land or BOR land where access was never threatened.

There is pleasant but primitive free camping at several locations near the parking on the west rim. Bring your own water, firewood and shovel.

There are rattlesnakes in the area though they are typically not a problem. If you bring dogs or children scope the area before settling down to climb.

It can be extremely hot at Massacre during the summer. The sand can burn bare feet. Dogs in particular can have a very tough time with the hot sand. Due to some long treks across hot sand, it is not advisable to bring dogs during summer, even if you intend to climb in the shade.

Getting There 

Massacre Rocks is situated across the Snake River, northwest from Massacre Rocks State Park entrance fee station; the 200 foot Main Wall is visible from Interstate 86. Traditionally climbers accessed Main Wall and Owl Cove by taking a canoe across the Snake River. However the vast majority of the climbing is in box canyons and alcoves situated behind Owl Cove and Main Wall. For easier access to these walls climbers drive across the American Falls Reservoir Dam and follow paved roads to a public access dirt road. Three miles of two-track lead parking areas along the west rims. From the the parking, some crags can be reached in as little as five minutes and the Main Wall is still only a 30 min hike through the back country.

Crag locations and detailed driving directions can be found in the "Beta" pictures.

If you have access to a boat, the quickest and easiest way to reach the Main Wall and Owl Cove is to cross the Snake River at Massacre State Park. Drive about 11.5 miles west of American Falls on I-86. Take the Massacre Rocks exit, exit #28. Park your vehicle near the fee station and portage your boat about 200 yards along a faint trail to the river. If you paddle straight across the river you will be near the entrance to Owl Cove. Alternatively, you can drive to the boat ramp, put in, and navigate a quarter mile upriver.

If you don't have a boat or want to a short hike to most crags, driving in the back way is the best option. The last three miles of this drive is on a two-track dirt road that requires moderate clearance. While trucks and Subaru's have no problem and plenty of sedans (like Camrys and Accords) have made it too, be aware that clearance may be an issue.

From the town of American Falls, take State Highway 39 across the American Falls Reservoir dam. Take the first left turn onto the Lamb-Weston Road and set your trip odometer to zero.

  • 0.0 miles: Left turn onto Lamb-Weston Road
  • 0.2 miles: Turn left onto Borah Road
  • 1.8 miles: Turn left onto the paved Lake Channel Road; it follows the river for awhile before heading across potato fields.
  • 13.7 miles: Turn left onto a dirt two-track road. Follow this road for about 100 yards all the way to the fence line. A very short distance before the fence, you will cross a dirt road. DO NOT TURN RIGHT YET!! Go all the way to the fence and then turn right and follow the fence line until you come to a BLM gate at 14.1 miles.
  • 14.1 miles: Turn left and go through the BLM gate (please close it behind you). Continue along a two-track dirt road. You will pass through a couple more gates and at 16.5 miles veer right at a subtle turn.
  • 17.1 miles: Take the right fork and continue on a well used two-track dirt road.
  • 17.7 miles: Most popular parking spot. "P2" on the access map.

Climbing Season

For the All Locations area.

Weather station 0.6 miles from here

328 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',50],['3 Stars',120],['2 Stars',128],['1 Star',28],['Bomb',2]

Classic Climbing Routes in Massacre Rocks

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Massacre Rocks:
Main Street   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, TR, 1 pitch   All American Area : All American Wall
Pretty Woman   5.11a/b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch   All American Area : All American Wall
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Massacre Rocks

Featured Route For Massacre Rocks
Rock Climbing Photo: Terran Engle,I-Chi-Hua-Hua, 12b (April 2014)

I-Chi-Hua-Hua 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b  ID : Massacre Rocks : ... : South of the Border Area
Starts out left side of low roof and pulls into the sustain classic corner on suburb rock....[more]   Browse More Classics in ID

Photos of Massacre Rocks Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Overview map of Massacre Rocks and locations of ma...
BETA PHOTO: Overview map of Massacre Rocks and locations of ma...
Rock Climbing Photo: Driving directions map from American Falls Reservo...
BETA PHOTO: Driving directions map from American Falls Reservo...
Rock Climbing Photo: Detail of driving directions map from start of the...
BETA PHOTO: Detail of driving directions map from start of the...
Rock Climbing Photo: More detailed map of some of Massacre Rocks includ...
BETA PHOTO: More detailed map of some of Massacre Rocks includ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Dorky photo, but gives you an idea of the place.
Dorky photo, but gives you an idea of the place.
Rock Climbing Photo: Massacre Rocks
Massacre Rocks
Rock Climbing Photo: Rattlesnakes at Massacre.  There are two in this p...
Rattlesnakes at Massacre. There are two in this p...
Rock Climbing Photo: Steep and tall, the west (left side) of Eagle Wall...
BETA PHOTO: Steep and tall, the west (left side) of Eagle Wall...
Rock Climbing Photo: Eagle Wall, from Rap-Tour to Air of the Dog
Eagle Wall, from Rap-Tour to Air of the Dog
Rock Climbing Photo: Right Light District Wall
Right Light District Wall
Rock Climbing Photo: The good life at Massacre.
The good life at Massacre.
Rock Climbing Photo: Massacre rocks - View of Eagle Wall from Funny Bus...
Massacre rocks - View of Eagle Wall from Funny Bus...
Rock Climbing Photo: Massacre Rocks
Massacre Rocks
Rock Climbing Photo: The Eagle Has Landed @ Eagle Wall
The Eagle Has Landed @ Eagle Wall
Rock Climbing Photo: St. Patrick's Day Sunset at Massacre Rocks
St. Patrick's Day Sunset at Massacre Rocks
Rock Climbing Photo: Eagle Wall
Eagle Wall
Rock Climbing Photo: Eagle Wall & Summer Wall
Eagle Wall & Summer Wall
Rock Climbing Photo: Massacre Rocks
Massacre Rocks

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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Dec 13, 2015
By Bill Ballace
From: Pullman,WA
Jul 12, 2007
Surprisingly "Rocn'n Road", by Tim Toula, Gives this area four out of five stars, while he gives City of Rocks only three. This makes me want to check Massacre out.
By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From: Bend, OR
Aug 3, 2007
I'd give the City 4/5 stars.. Massacre, maybe 2/5 stars. Massacre's advantage is warmer temps in the cool seasons, but the climbing can't touch what the City has to offer. The City is a world class destination... Massacre, while fun, is most certainly not.
By ktmt
From: Missoula, MT
Nov 15, 2008
Agree completely with Massacre 2/5 stars, City 4/5. Massacre is good early spring destination when City is snowed in. It's a fun place, great for mileage and clipping bolts. Like a big outdoor climbing gym with hawks.
By Christine E.
Apr 30, 2009
This was the first place I went to do outdoor sport climbing after starting in the gym. I feel like it was a great place for a beginner for several reasons, one of which was that there was no one else there (though it was a weekday). Thus, it was easy for us to take our time, and I felt comfortable getting used to things. The location was easy to get to, and it was really warm for early March. We camped out under the stars and enjoyed some great beers from The Grapevine in Pocatello. I could not have asked for a better first experience climbing outdoors. So - from a beginner's perspective, I'd have to say I recommend it highly. Since Massacre, I have done a few climbs in Little Cottonwood Canyon in SLC and they were much more nerve-wracking for me.
By dave bingham
Apr 7, 2010
As a semi-local and City of Rocks guide author, my 2 cents is that Massacre is one of the best pure-sport areas in the U.S! With an ungodly number of featured basalt routes,(upwards of 700)this is one of the best places on earth for cranking mass quantities of sport routes. Nearby City of Rocks is great, but lacks classic "sport" walls where you can open up the rope bag and climb all day.

Two things keep Massacre from being an A-list area. Firstly, access is adventurous, involving complex route finding from the small town of American Falls, finishing with tricky navigation on sandy tracks w several fence crossings. Good directions can be had online at the ISU website. Traditionally, the "Main Wall" was approached by crossing the Snake River via canoe at Massacre Rocks State Park. For several years, locals kept boats stashed for fellow climber use, but that ended after several boats disappeared.

The other negative factor (or positive depending on your preference) is that the bulk of the climbs are solid 5.11, and don't offer much if you don't climb at least 5.10.If you operate in the upper .11 zone, Massacre is onsight paradise, with lots of crazy (challenging)sequences and cool features.

Most of the use these days is in the back alcove areas, a unique landscape of sandy coves sculpted by the ice-age Bonneville Flood. Most of the climbs are 100' or less, but amazingly equipped with ample bolts and quick-lowering anchors.

There is sweet (free) camping in the sandy juniper on the rim, with many crags within a few minutes of camp.

By Mike Roghaar
Apr 20, 2010
Spot on Dave. Spot on. Your 2 cents is worth a dollar. Thanks for the guide books for the City by the way. My favorite place since My dad started taking me there when I was 2 years old.
By Ezra Ellis
May 29, 2011
Rattle snake

There is a rattle snake in may of 2011 on the all american wall 50 feet to the climbers left of Rawhide
By Brian Fedigan
From: Boise, ID
Jul 15, 2011
If you have not heard the BLM is proposing closing this crag to climbing due to protection of cultural resources. If you want to help please contact your concerns to Mike Courtney of the BLM: You can also be added to a master email list by contacting Troy Neu at This is AN AWESOME CRAG; please help keep it open. July 2011
By Brian Fedigan
From: Boise, ID
Aug 25, 2011
The Massacre Rocks closure has been listed on the Federal Register. That means you have thirty days to comment on the closure. BE HEARD, WRITE A LETTER. Send your letter and/or comments to the BLM by going to their website, emailing them, mailing them 15 East 200 South Burley, ID 83318 or faxing them at 208-677-6699 PLEASE ACT NOW!
By nelsras
From: Fillmore, UT
Aug 11, 2012
Online guidebook maintained by Bruce A. Black has moved to

Check it out.
By Ken Aho
Jul 9, 2014
I agree with D. Bingham. Based on my experience, climbing all over Western US for 20+ years, I find that Massacre ranks among the best sport climbing destinations.

The routes are generally difficult for beginners (>10d) and the access is a bit complex (see Upon arrival, however, you will generally find that you have over 600 mostly-high-quality routes to yourself.

Climbing is also possible year round. In the summer months go in the morning to West-Facing walls (e.g., La Petite Covette, Hobbit Wall, Eagle Wall), and in the evening go to East-facing walls (e.g., Love Connection, Red Light District).
By Matt Enlow
From: Jackson, WY
Apr 14, 2015
Spent a day here, had a great time. No photos of anyone climbing as there were just the two of us though... added a few beta photos here on MP to help folks get around, and I have a teency blog post on it as well:
By Mike Engle
Dec 13, 2015
There is a new version of the free online Massacre Guidebook, highlights include:

  • Over 60 new routes added bringing the total number of routes in this guidebook to more than 750 sport routes!
  • Reformatted to be more compact and easily printed, cut and bound into a handy 5"x8" field guide.
  • Smart phone version available too. Formatted for small screens and in the field use.
  • New graphics for the public access driving directions.
  • New graphics for the cliff/crag locations at Massacre.
  • New table of contents to find areas and crags more quickly.
  • Downloadable .pdf file format for easier printing.

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