Updated: Apr 4, 2022
Wow! What a place. I have had City of Rocks on my list of go-to places for several years now, but I felt that the best way to experience this incredible reserve would be through climbing one of its many features. With the excellent guidance and company of my close friends and sister, this bucket list item finally became a reality!
Located about 3 hours to the southwest of Rexburg, along the Utah-Idaho border, City of Rocks National Reserve is tucked away beautifully among mountains bounding the reserve on 3 sides. I was under the false impression that the reserve was located on flat ground and was only characterized by a few rocks sticking out of the ground, but boy was I mistaken! Upon reaching the top of the climb, I realized just how mountainous the surrounding area was, and what a view it was from the top! Caste Rock State Park is located to the north of the reserve and features more rock structures just like City of Rocks. The road was passable this weekend, though road conditions can change drastically with weather as the dirt roads aren't maintained from November to mid-April.
Our climb consisted of a 650 ft multi-pitch and 2-part rappel on Steinfel's Dome, a 7300+ ft feature accessed from the Circle Creek Overlook parking lot. The climb was well routed and bolted along several routes. We chose to climb the southeast face of the dome (there is a name for the route, but I can't remember now). The climb is mostly on a steep incline with only one ~40 ft section that is near vertical (the second to last pitch). Rappelling chains are bolted into the north face at the top of a tight ravine cut into the rock. This was my first time climbing and rappelling outdoors. That being said, I am in decent shape, but by no means am I an avid rock climber. So, if you want an exhilarating first-time experience climbing, Steinfel's dome is prefect! The only part of the climb I really struggled on was the vertical section near the top, but I still made it after some problem solving and a few profanities. The average rating for the climb is about a 5.8 (or intermediate). The most difficult part of the entire experience was the rappel as the ravine had patches of snow, which at some places was over a foot deep. It made for an exciting landing at the end haha.
There are hundreds of routes you can climb in this area as well multiple trails for pedestrian and equestrian use. We found elk and deer droppings, saw multiple species of rodents and birds, and brought bear spray for the off-chance a bear or cougar was out and about in the warm weather. City of Rocks truly offers a close up, immersive nature experience!
I highly recommend visiting this national reserve at least once! The way gas prices are right now, I know that 3 hour drive (one way; 6 hours combined, there and back) can seem like a lot, but I can't say this enough, it is worth it. My Rav 4 used just about half a tank (one way), so plan on at least $50 dollars in gas (gas cost me $4.59 in Burley). I will say, this experience was well worth the cost!
Here are pictures taken by all of us, enjoy!