Idaho: City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park

The view from Circle Creek Overlook

The drive from Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge to Almo, Idaho is a beautiful one. This is gorgeous country. My photos do no justice to how amazingly beautiful it actually is.  It is also spectacularly interesting from a geological point of view. After driving through flat farmland into rolling hills you end up in a magical land of crazy granite formations.

What brought me to such a remote spot as Almo, Idaho you ask? A friend told me I would really like it. Because Almo is where you find City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park. This place is heaven for rock climbers, hikers, birders, and photographers.

More than 750 animal and plant species call this area home. Humans have called this area for thousands of years. Starting in the 1840's City of Rocks became one of the main points on the California Trail, where wagon trains of settlers passed through in their thousands.

Here you can clamber over rocks, search for lizards sunning themselves on granite, and walk straight through American history.

I stayed at the City of Rocks Retreat, a beautiful little apartment on a small farm right next to the entrance to the reserve. It doesn't get much more convenient than this. The farm has two very friendly dogs, one a small herding mix of some kind and one a huge Anatolian Shepard. The Anatolian Shepard was a huge love bug. We had a good time hanging out. There were also several cats. And there are very interesting goats and many chickens.

The gentle giant of an Anatolian Shepard.

One of the farm cats looking very intense and incredibly orange in the morning sun.

One of the many goats.

I spent the afternoon and early evening exploring locations on the "main" road in the reserve leading to such interesting places like Treasure Rock, Elephant Rock, Parking Lot Rock, and Bread Loaves. All of these places are fascinating granite formations. I picked up dinner at Rock City Mercantile, also conveniently located at the end of the road that leads directly to the reserve. Then I drove out Route 825E. This dirt road afforded amazing views and some interesting encounters with free ranging cows. Who were standing in the middle of the road blocking the way to anywhere.

The next morning I took a drive out Twin Sisters Road, which leads to the Twin Sisters formation. This is almost the exact route that was part of the California Trail. Imagine sitting in a Prairie Schooner driving your oxen and all your worldly possessions through the pass.

Then I drove out to Castle Rocks State Park. This too was stunningly beautiful with granite spires growing out of groves of pinyon pine, fields of iris leading the way to snow covered hills, spotted towhees singing from the tops of trees, and ravens patrolling the blue skies. I wished I had more time. Someday I shall wander back because I'm not done here.

Wandering down a trail within the City of Rocks.

Another view of City of Rocks. 

Exploring the weathered granite formations.

The Window in the rock formations.

Another view through the Window.

An unexpected find: an entire coyote skeleton. I suspect it was hit by a vehicle and then picked clean by the many scavengers in the park.

Common Sage Brush Lizard

Out route 825E.

Also out route 825E.

The cow guarding the area near a cattle grate.

Possibly the above cows well marked calf.

This is on City of Rocks Rd. in the reserve. This was a great birding spot. Red-shafted Northern Flickers had a nest hole in the tree, mountain bluebirds were nesting in the wall of the structure, and house wrens were building a nest nearby. Also a Belding's Ground Squirrel was happily munching away in the grass right near the tree. 

A little bit of sky falling to earth. A mountain bluebird with breakfast for its young.

More breakfast for its young.

House Wren with feather of a much larger bird. Probably using it for nesting material.

Belding's Ground Squirrel

The Twin Sisters formation. Here is where the California Trail went through the pass.

Turkey vulture and magpie having a dead hare for breakfast.

Turkey vulture.

Turkey vultures can be seen perched like this often in the morning. They are warming themselves up in the sun.

I made a pit stop at the Visitor's Center where Cassin's Finches and Pine Siskins (not pictured) were feasting at the feeders.

Castle Rocks State Park.

Hiking into Castle Rocks.

Male spotted towhee

I don't know what this bird is. Let me know if you do.

Bumble bee on an Arrowleaf Balsamroot. Bears like to eat this. Humans can use most of it for food and medicine as well. It's part of the sunflower family.