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Silent City of Rocks Towers Over Idaho


Americans traveling through this boulder-strewn landscape in the mid-1800s described it as "a city of tall spires,” “steeple rocks," and "the silent city."

The state of Idaho is famous for its potatoes. But it’s also known as a haven for rock-climbers, who come from all over the world to the City of Rocks National Reserve.

Granite City

Granite spires, ranging from 10 to almost 200 meters high, tower over a vast expanse of rock formations of various shapes and sizes. They jut from the ground -- seemingly out of nowhere -- creating a stark, yet beautiful vista.

The rocks were once buried underneath the ground, but erosion over millions of years exposed them… creating the surreal landscape.

Rocks of all shapes and sizes create a surreal landscape at City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho.
Rocks of all shapes and sizes create a surreal landscape at City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho.

National parks traveler Mikah Meyer explained, “It's difficult to capture on film, but all these rocks, when you move even just 10 feet in one direction, completely change their shape based on whatever angle you're looking at them from.”

Nature’s sculptures

Mikah especially liked seeing the smaller rocks, which he called “carve outs from larger boulders,” framed by the snow-capped mountains behind them, off in the distance.

“It really shows the diversity of rock types and views that you can have here at City of Rocks,” he said.

Snow-capped mountains form a dramatic backdrop for the granite formations in the City of Rocks.
Snow-capped mountains form a dramatic backdrop for the granite formations in the City of Rocks.

Mikah enjoyed a scenic hike to one of the reserve’s most popular sites, Window Arch, which he described as “the most interesting rock formation I’ve seen here at City of Rocks.”

Window Arch is a great example of weathered granite; a result of the powerful forces of nature, which create beautiful, graceful forms.

History rocks!

The ancient landscape also has a colorful, more recent history. In the 1840s and ‘50s, American settlers traveled through the City of Rocks as they headed west with their wagons. In 1852 alone, some 52,000 people passed through the towering boulders on their way to the California goldfields. Those wagon routes were largely abandoned when the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.

Over 200,000 pioneers followed the California trail through City of Rocks, a name coined by one of the travelers, artist James F. Wilkins, in August 1849.
Over 200,000 pioneers followed the California trail through City of Rocks, a name coined by one of the travelers, artist James F. Wilkins, in August 1849.

Mikah says the scenic landscape at the reserve has something for everyone.

“If your hope is to see amazing vistas and interesting views, definitely stick to the main road and areas of wide-open grassy spaces. If your goal is to climb and climb in seclusion, get onto the trails where you’ll find many rocks that allow you to have it all to yourself.”

Mikah, who’s on a mission to visit all 417 units within the National Park Service, invites you to learn more about his travels across America by visiting him on his website, Facebook and Instagram.

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