Since I am not much of a rock climber these days, I have been making a habit out of running some of the best climbing areas in the country. First, trail running Smith Rock State Park and now trail running through Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve.
The City of Rocks sits in the southeastern corner of Idaho just a few miles north of the Utah border. The City of Rocks literally looks like the ruins of some ancient city hence the name and draws rock climbers from around the country with its nearly endless traditional and bolt-protected routes on the granite spires and formations that make up the the park.
I picked up a trail map at the visitor center for two bucks and was informed by the ranger that I absolutely must run the North Fork Trail. He suggested I do a loop starting at the Circle Creek Overlook, which is the parking lot for the Theater of Shadows that I once upon a time climbed.
From the Circle Creek Overlook I descended the fairly sandy double-track trail to the Geo-Watt trail named for the many light-bulb looking rocks that can be seen alongside the trail. From there I hooked up with the North Fork Circle Creek Trail which ascended close to 1,500 feet from sagebrush flats to the aspen groves overlooking the entire “city.” I didn’t see another soul on the entire North Fork trail, which was a welcome respite from all the crowded parking lots and climbing crags.
I then jumped on the South Fork Trail, which took me back down into the popular climbing areas of the city. The trail wove through all the main climbing areas and alongside streams with the Creekside Towers area being my favorite. I lost the main trail many times and wound up at many dead ends surprising climbers that than directed me back towards my car.
With 22-miles of trails and many dirt roads extending outside the park’s borders, the City of Rocks National Reserve offers a ton of loops and link-up adventures for the trail runner. See a map of the park’s trails at the City of Rocks website and view the map of my run below.