Elevation: 6,108 ft
GPS: 42.053, -113.711 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 5,128 total · 74/month
Shared By: Matt Schroer on Mar 19, 2013
Admins: grk10vq, Mike Engle
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Access Issue: Currently closed to all climbing (as of 2013) Details


The Twin Sisters are without a doubt the most spectacular formations found within the City of Rocks National Reserve, and they deserve mention, as the history here is abundant, both culturally and within the climbing community. Unfortunately for climbers, all climbing activities on the sisters have been banned since 2000, when a court decision decided to uphold the NPS's closure under the reserve's comprehensive management plan.

The Twin Sisters are two dramatic granite spires that mark the high points of a mile-long rock ridge that is separated from the rest of the reserve by about 2 miles. The north spire (~500 feet tall) is composed of the 28 million year old Almo Pluton granite, while the south spire (~600 feet tall) is comprised of the 2.5 billion year old Green Creek Complex granite and represents some of the oldest exposed rock on the continent.

The cultural history of the Twin Sisters is rich. Between 1843 and 1882, nearly 250,000 immigrants traveled through City of Rocks on the California Trail, using the Twin Sisters as a major landmark on their journey. Prior to receiving their current name in 1848, immigrant journals mentioned the formations under various names, including "Steeple Rocks", "Twin Mounds", "Twin Buttes", "Two Dome Mountain", and others. Inconclusive ethnographic information also hints at the formations being of important spiritual value to the area's Native American groups.

The earliest known climbing ascents on the Twin Sisters were completed in the 1960's by the renowned and visionary Lowe party, which included Greg, Jeff, and George Lowe. The Twin Sisters house some of the longest and highest quality rock in the City of Rocks, ranging from historical, Yosemite-esque crack lines to highly technical face routes. I invite others with more (personal) knowledge of these routes to add them here 1) for future reference, in case the climbing ban is ever lifted and 2) for posterity's sake, as I, for one, enjoy following the early history of North American climbing.

"City of Rocks, Idaho: A Climbers Guide" by David Bingham, 2009
"Administrative History: Twin Sisters" Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Pacific West Region, 2011
"Etched in Stone: The Geology of City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park, Idaho" by Kevin R. Pogue, 2008

Getting There

The Twin Sisters are impossible to miss and are visible from many vantage points within the reserve. From the main City of Rocks dirt road, take the westward dirt road at the split that occurs just north of Register Rock.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Twin Sisters

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
The Lowe Route
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c R
Straight Edge
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
The Lowe Route N Twin Sister
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Trad
Straight Edge N Twin Sister
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c R Trad
More Classic Climbs in Twin Sisters »

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Los Alamos, NM
Aerili   Los Alamos, NM
This description reads like straight-up plagiarism from the Bingham book. Seriously? Apr 3, 2015
Laramie, WY
Petsfed   Laramie, WY
I just checked. While it does paraphrase the bit about the mile-long ridge, and has a similar topic sentence to the 2009 edition, the similarities end there. Its actually much more robust than Bingham's bit. I'm certain that if it was too similar, Bingham (who is quite active on here) would've brought it to the admin's attention. Apr 3, 2015
Los Alamos, NM
Aerili   Los Alamos, NM
Most of this info appears, worded just slightly differently from the original text, in various sections of the book, including the "Local History" section, the "Geology" section, and the "Twin Sisters" page. While it might be mixed around and abbreviated a bit, that is usually considered plagiarism by most. Whoever wrote this should at least give Bingham credit as the actual source. I noticed this in the first place because I had just read those sections in the guidebook a few days before reading this description. It sounded like deja vu. Apr 6, 2015
Yes, I've seen a number of examples of "paraphrasing" of passages in my guide. And yes, it is a little annoying to see one's work doctored up and presented as original. But as long as it's not directly copied,it's just lazing writing, not plagiarism.

Better to just quote the source!

Thanks for noticing Aerili! Apr 15, 2015
Matt Schroer
Logan, Utah
Matt Schroer   Logan, Utah
My apologies - I did not intend to plagiarize anything, nor did I realize that it was common practice to cite literature sources on a climbing forum. My intent was to get some quick information down on a climbing area so that others could benefit from that knowledge.

For the record, Dave's guidebook (which I own, and love) isn't the only source of information on the City of Rocks or the Twin Sisters. To appease all crowds, I've updated the text to include all sources used in this area description, and I encourage those interested to explore this literature, as it has a wealth of additional information. Jun 28, 2015
Richard Howard
Draper, UT
Richard Howard   Draper, UT
As of right now, the NPS closed down Twin Sisters to any technical climbing. This area is off limits and you could be fined heavily for climbing. Saw it this last weekend when I was up there. Aug 2, 2016