Discovering the City of Rocks
This article first appeared in the Boise Weekly on April 16, 2014.
It isn’t difficult to understand the unfettered appeal of the City of Rocks National Reserve. With its weather-chiseled cliffs, multi-storied pinnacles and smooth granite domes, it’s long been a sought-after destination for rock climbers. Amusing names like Incisor, Anteater, Animal Cracker, Transformer, Banana and Broken Arrow allude to the park’s monolith diversity and it is hard to believe a climber, or any visitor for that matter, who would not be captivated by this rocky Garden of Eden.
Maybe one of the best ways to experience the nature reserve is to hike one of the local trails. More than 22 miles of trail intertwine like a web, and you are able to combine routes to create a myriad of out-and-back hikes or combine a few and make an idyllic loop. All trails are well- marked and many of the rock formations are identified with signs.
Although the reserve is accessible year-round, spring is best for wildflowers–nearly 500 species of plants are found in the area–with peak color being from mid April to early June. Summer is an excellent choice, too; however, it is also the reserve’s busiest season. Aspen dot the landscape and you will normally find their golden leaves the last two weeks of October.
To experience a diverse hike with superlative views, blooming wildflowers, plenty of rock formations and a multitude of intersecting trails, look no further than the Flaming Rock trail. Combining Flaming Rock with the Bumblie trail makes for a pleasant 2.8 mile out-and-back hike. The hike description ends at the base of the colossal Lost Arrow rock formation. An added bonus: Nearby granite knolls provide flat perches to enjoy a snack and contemplate another one of Mother Nature’s outdoor museums.
From the Flaming Rock Trailhead, hike west to a junction for Transformer. Continue west, toward Tribal as the trail ascends a granite knoll and descends to another junction. Continue through a few more junctions, following the signs for the Bumblie trail. At a half mile, turn left at the sign for the Bumblie Wall area. Here the trail passes through juniper and aspen and ascends 200 feet to a gate. Pass through the gate and descend 150 feet as the trail winds down to a small wooden bridge. Cross the bridge and turn left on a small footpath signed for the Lost Arrow. Follow the trail as it gently climbs to the base of the impressive Lost Arrow spire. Retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
How to Get There:
From Exit 53 in Boise, travel east on I-84, 163 miles to Exit 216. Travel south on Hwy. 77, approximately 23 miles to Elba-Almo Road. Turn right and drive another 16 miles through the small town of Almo. The City of Rocks Visitor Center and park entrance is less than a mile south of Almo.