"We encamped at the city of the rocks, a noted place from the granite rocks rising abruptly out of the ground," wrote James Wilkins in 1849. "They are in a romantic valley clustered together, which gives them the appearance of a city." Wilkins was among the first wagon travelers to fix the name City of Rocks to what looked like "a dismantled, rock-built city of the Stone Age." California Trail pioneers were leaving civilization as they knew it in the East for new lives in the West. Some wrote their names in axle grease on rock faces, and their signatures can be seen today. No doubt thirsty on this northern edge of the Great Basin Desert, one emigrant saw the distant rocks in August like "water thrown up into the air from numerous artificial hydrants." Beginning in 1843, City of Rocks was a landmark for emigrants on the California Trail and Salt Lake Alternate Trail and later on freight routes and the Kelton, Utah to Boise, Idaho stage route.
The area's historical and geological values, scenery, and opportunities for recreation led to its designation as City of Rocks National Reserve in 1988. This unit of the National Park System is managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, who invite you to enjoy the wonders of the City of Rocks.