City of Rocks… But Not the Right One… Or the One That’s Famous

After Craters of the Moon I headed towards City of Rocks, a point of interest marked in my atlas. Without any guidance other than a point on the map, I headed south on Idaho Route 46 when I saw an intersection sign for City of Rocks Road which I took to be an indication that my destination would be on this road. There was a BLM billboard at a turnout just off the highway showing a division of the land into wildlife study areas but nothing about the city of rocks really. Recent experience has showed me that geologically interesting features are often not maintained by the Department of the Interior however so I had little doubt at that point that I was in the right place.

After a half hour of driving 15 mph on a single lane washboarded mess of a dirt road however I did have doubts. But then I saw a sign at a junction with an arrow saying Gooding East City of Rocks. So I continued and ten minutes later just over a rise, I saw thousands of rock formations called hoodoos scattered about the hills, boulders eroding in fantastic configurations. Excitedly I drove on but immediately the road went from bad to absolutely terrible. Like, ruts over a foot deep and two feet wide with rounded rocks over a foot in diameter strewn about. Because the sign had mentioned Gooding, which was the town just south, I had thought this road would lead there (and to be fair, it might have) so I crawled on this absurd pathway between the boulders for longer than I should have. My 2 wheel drive, low-clearance Honda Civic had NO BUSINESS being on this “road,” at least 20 miles from civilization. I will leave it at that. In the process of nearly stranding myself on some rocks on a steep incline and almost wrecking my car I did see some really interesting hoodoos and eroded boulders:

Entrance to the City of Rocks area, before the road became not a road, Idaho

Entrance to the City of Rocks area, before the road became not a road, Idaho

Another view of the road leading into the valley, City of Rocks, Idaho

Another view of the road leading into the valley, City of Rocks, Idaho

City of Rocks, Idaho

City of Rocks, Idaho

City of Rocks, Idaho

City of Rocks, Idaho

City of Rocks, Idaho

City of Rocks, Idaho

I have never been so thankful to get back to pavement however. After checking my tires I turned back on Route 46 going south and then 15 minutes later… I saw a brown sign with an arrow saying “Little City of Rocks.” Oh, dear. As it was already dark however and I was thankful that my car was operating at that point, I pressed on. The next morning when I had phone service I Googled ‘Little City of Rocks’ and discovered that it was a popular spot located at the end of a maintained gravel road. Ah well.

A postscript to this adventure is that the day after that as I was driving on I-84 about 60 miles south and almost into Utah I saw multiple signs for City of Rocks and a park. I looked at my atlas and, sure enough, there was another City of Rocks marked and it’s a full-service National Reserve. So apparently I did not see the City of Rocks… or the Little City of Rocks… but I’m okay with it. And my car is still working.