Idaho’s City of Rocks Expands into New Climbing Territory

This article originally appeared on Climbing

While certainly no Joshua Tree or Red River Gorge, City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho holds its own as a climbing mecca for the area, with a storied history, over 600 routes, over 120,000 visitors each year, and 14,407 acres of land. During the first week of December 2022, the National Park Service acquired an additional 105 acres of land adjacent to the City of Rocks and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation purchased 260 adjacent acres, all land that had previously been privately owned and had limited access for use. With these new additions comes the opportunity for the development of many new climbing routes.

When visitors refer to the “City of Rocks” area, many lump together two separate, adjacent parks: City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park, the former which is owned by the National Park Service (NPS) and managed by Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Despite having the funds to purchase the entire 365 acres available for sale itself, the NPS would only have been allowed to do so with an act of congress, which is required to expand a national park or reserve. The resulting dual purchase by two different entities means that the new land will have different permitting processes for developing climbing routes.

The new acreage is in what’s generally known as the Graham Creek Canyon area. While visible from the current City of Rocks, the area was previously inaccessible due to its private status and comparatively rugged terrain. Stephen King, Park Ranger for City of Rocks and Castle Rocks for the last four years, describes the new area as backcountry terrain, which will take “some planning and effort to get out to the features.” This remoteness means it hasn’t yet been explored by would-be first ascensionists, so it’s hard for King to predict how many new routes could potentially be developed in the area. However, looking at the new area’s named features using the OnX app…


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