City of Rocks becomes our Magic Kingdom

Ann and I haved always found a special kind of allure in landscapes filled with rocks. You could guess it from hints like our wedding in Joshua Tree, and a month living in a camper in Vedauwoo. We now have a new rock wonderland in our collection of places that call to us in dreams, fantasies, and vacation plans. After spending over a week there we’ve come to think of it as the Magic Kingdom. It has generous portions of all the ingredients needed to move one’s perspective into a new realm while still providing for worldly needs. And it has more rock climbing than we’ll probably ever fully explore.

Ann’s parents met us there and camped for the week also, showing that non-climbers can be enchanted by this place as well. Rather than a blow-by-blow account of our time there, I thought I’d summarize some of our delightful discoveries during our week in City of Rocks, Idaho.

Rock City in Almo

Rock City

The small town of Almo is perfectly situated between the two vast playgrounds of City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park, and Rock City is the perfect supplier of necessities like climbing guidebooks, fresh pizza (vegan even!), microbrews, and many others stuffed onto small shelves and corners. Outside Leaf-footed bugs and hummingbirds greet the customers.


Pizza at Rock City

Beautiful primitive camping

By chance we get the campsite with perhaps the best view in the reserve. Later we learn that the state park campground has hot showers and electricity, but we’re just where we want to be.

Central City


Back door view


Ann and Carol

sunrise timelapse


There is real dark here, which attracts telescopes. Ann’s dad brings his and tours us through the night sky, and a “star party” on the weekend gives us the opportunity to gaze through a variety of scopes. During the week the Perseid meteor shower supplies ample shooting stars. I learn how to find a few new constellations and other objects, like the Andromeda galaxy, which I find myself staring at endlessly in my binoculars.

Star party setup

New moon

Excellent hiking

We thought we might have to leave the area to find good hikes, but we never exhaust the trails accessible from our campsite. The biggest loop we do has it all: springs, wildflowers, and jawdropper views.

City of Rocks Overview

Above the city

Above the city

Tall paintbrush

Beef Jello or Banana?

Desert Globemallow

North fork springs

Hot Springs

Six bucks lets you rinse and soak in four large outdoor pools ranging from 109 degrees Fahrenheit to 97 at Durfee Hot Springs. Open till 10pm, so good.

Endless moderate climbing

In other areas we often climb a few of the easiest routes before getting shut down by the sport’s love affair with difficulty. Here there are more routes at our level than we can do, and they’re high quality and long. A few are too run out (i.e. scary / dangerous) for us, but there are many more that aren’t. We climb our butts off until I go for a run one day and smash a toe, turning it into a debilitating purple balloon. Then I belay Ann while she takes the lead and continues to climb her butt off. Prior to this she thought she had lost her interest and ability to lead, so this a big stride for her.

Neighbor climbing

Ann raps on the north spur

Ann raps Too Much Fun

Ann and Too Much Fun

Our routes: Wheat Thin 5.7, Just Say No 5.9-, Gargoyle Gardens 5.7, Bold Yellow 5.10b TR, Jesus and Einstein 5.10c, No Climb for Old Men 5.10b, Fruit Pie 5.8, Blind Pig 5.10a, Honeymoon in Almo 5.11a TR, Bikini Candy 5.8, Bora Bora 5.9, The Good Stuff 5.10a, Roratonga 5.10b, Columbian Crack 5.7

Ann’s routes after my toe injury: Move With a View 5.10a TR, Right Side 5.9 TR, The Flake 5.8, Raindance 5.7 pitch 1, Too Much Fun 5.8, Muffin Top 5.8, Built for Comfort 5.9, Love Handles 5.8, Snack Break Direct 5.8


2 responses to “City of Rocks becomes our Magic Kingdom”

  1. I’m so glad you had such a great time and sorry I missed it. Gracie and I are just back in the hour from our week in Chautauqua. We also had a wonderful time. However, instead of frying, as I had feared we would out west, we froze. But it was still fun.

  2. Love. 🙂 We spent a week at City of Rocks on our big-old road trip back in the day… can’t believe that was almost 10 years ago! Looks like not much has changed… and that’s a wonderful thing! Hooray for City of Rocks!

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