We’ve been climbing in City of Rock since about 1990. In the past couple of years we have made two return trips and it has only served to increase our enthusiasm for the area. City of Rocks has some of the best granite sport climbing anywhere. The rock is highly featured granite which is littered with pockets, edges and gorgeous patterns of patina. The City also has an unusually good mix of sport and trad climbing and a relaxed and friendly camping atmosphere in rural southern Idaho. Although it’s in a remote locale, the City is not too far from Salt Lake, and is well worth a visit on any road trip.
City of Rocks offers superb climbing at every grade and many different styles, up to about 5.12. Above 5.12 options are pretty limited (less than 20 5.13s are listed in the guidebook). The rock quality is generally impeccable, with different crags featuring slabs, pockets, edges, huecos and cracks.
City of Rocks covers two climbing venues, separated by a few miles. The main City of Rocks area is a federal National Reserve, but is managed by Idaho State Parks. It is located a few miles west of the tiny town of Almo. Castle Rocks State Park is about 15 miles from the main City, a few miles north of Almo. Castle Rocks is fairly unique in that it was opened to climbing in 2003 in a cooperative effort with The Access Fund, the Conservation Fund and Idaho State Parks. It has been managed with climbing in mind from the beginning. The climbing at Castle Rocks is generally very high quality. The main Castle Rocks crag features a bunch of multi-pitch routes of varying grades.
We’ve been here mostly in the dead of summer, and conditions have usually been good. The east-west orientation of many walls allows you to find shade or sun pretty easily. Temps have typically been in the 70s/80s. In 2018 we were here during a heat wave, with temps above 100 at times. Still, we could climb in the morning or afternoon shade and do fine.
Dave Bingham’s excellent guidebook will give you all the route info you need. Here are some tips on our favorite routes and climbs. This is by by no means a complete list - just a sampling of some of the better routes we’ve done.
Parking Lot Rocks. This is a good choice to get familiar with climbing at the City. Some great moderate routes, with east and west facing walls that allow you to choose from sun or shade. Solstice, Delay of Game, Thin Slice, Cairo are all excellent routes from 5.8 to 5.11a.
Morning Glory Spire. Another good choice to sample the style of climbing at the City. Skyline (5.8) is an all time classic. Fall Line (5.10b) is also very popular. Also home to Crack of Doom (5.11c) - a stellar and burly looking crack line that we have not done.
Bread Loaves. Some moderate sport routes on the west side (morning shade). Classic moderate cracks on the east side (Fred Rasmussen).
Bloody Fingers Area. Great afternoon shade and two classic routes (Bloody Fingers and Intruding Dike).
King of the Throne. The north side of this crag is home to Double Cracks - excellent climbing, with a stout start for the grade (10a/b).
Window Rock. Worth a visit just to climb She’s the Bosch (5.11c). A superb, well protected route - 120+ feet with 18 bolts. Edges, crimps, cracks.
Rabbit Rock. Another super classic route here - Redtail (5.11a). 15 bolts, long single pitch. It’s easiest to use two ropes to get down.
Bath Rock. Very popular moderate sport routes on the west side (morning shade). Rollercoaster (5.8) and Colossus (5.10c) are both worthwhile, as is the trad corner between these two routes (Private Idaho, 5.9).
Bumblie Wall. Lots of good routes in the Inner City area. Too Much Fun (5.8), New York is Not the City (5.10a) and return of the Bumble (5.10a) - all good.
Transformer Wall. Also located in the Inner City. Do Dynamo Hum (5.10c), Short Circuit (5.10a mixed) and Live Wire (5.10c, mixed). Protection on Live Wire is a little tricky at the low crux. Can be top roped from the shared Short Circuit anchor.
Cannibal Corridor. Get Over It (5.11a). Excellent steep sport route. Climbs a fun roof and face above.
Elephant Rock. Afternoon shade on the east face, with classic easy routes and two minute approach.
Castle Rocks. We haven’t climbed here too much, but the very short route Crimson Arete (5.10a) is truly stellar - too bad it’s not longer.
The relaxed camping is one of the best features of City of Rocks. Some of the campsites are magnificent, with excellent views tucked within the boulders and pines. There are bathrooms and trash removal scattered around the campsites. Water can be found near Bath Rock and must be refilled and stored back at camp.
Campsites can be reserved online here. This site also has a lot of good info on the individual sites. There is a huge variation in the quality of the campsites. Many are superb, but a few along the main road a pretty bad. Here are a few of our favorites: 20, 21, 22, 26, 29, 33.
There are some other options, including Smoky Mountain Campground (closer to Castle Rocks). We have not camped here.
The guidebook has good info on the little town of Almo. There are just enough options to provide some basic supplies, but don’t expect much in the way of variety. The Tracy General Store has gas, ice cream, sandwiches and some supplies (similar to what you might find at any gas station food mart). It’s a charming old store where you might find locals working on a jigsaw puzzle. Rock City Mercantile has pizza and another small selection of supplies. Durfee Hot Springs has multiple pools at varying temps to keep you cool, or slowly cook you, depending on your preference.