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City of Rocks Camping

Idaho may be the fastest growing state but it wasn’t always that way. Over 150 years ago, Idaho was a place that folks passed through on their way to somewhere else — most notably Oregon and California.

Here in Caldwell, the Oregon trail more or less followed Cleveland Boulevard on its way to Fort Boise and further west.

Recently, my wife and I decided to visit City of Rocks south of Burley. Almost a quarter million emigrants passed through City of Rocks between 1848 and the mid 1860s. They were bound for the California gold fields. Our thought was that we would do some cross country skiing or maybe snowshoeing.

On the way we stopped at Pomerelle to ski. My wife grew up skiing at Pomerelle. Her mother attended Albion Normal, a small college in Albion so she is a little nostalgic for the area. The college closed decades ago but the ski resort is still going strong and brags that it receives the most snow of any ski resort in Idaho.

The base at Pomerelle sits at around 7,700 feet. It gets a lot of snow although you wouldn’t know it until you are within a mile or two of the lodge. There is something about its location that funnels snow storms right on the ski area while leaving the rest of the surrounding area windswept and barren.

When we arrived, it was 45 degrees and sunny — perfect spring conditions. I haven’t skied at Pomerelle in 25 years and it hadn’t changed a bit. There were no lift lines to speak of, lots of kids (it was spring break) and pretty cheap lift tickets — $50. The lodge at the base is simple and boasts hamburgers and fries for under $10. Try to find that at any other ski resort.

Pomerelle is a throwback to the ‘70s. I even saw a guy skiing in blue jeans. No pretentiousness at Pomerelle.

Our main destination was City of Rocks. City of Rocks is located about 15-20 miles to the south of Pomerelle near the town of Almo. It is off the beaten path. The gold fields of California have given up their gold and the emigrants are long gone.

Now there are rock climbers. City of Rocks is a big time rock climbing destination. I’m told that the granite rocks and spires are perfect for rock climbing. City of Rocks is at 6,000 feet and we figured we’d find some spots to cross country ski or snow shoe.

We didn’t find snow; we found mud, lots of it. We talked to a park ranger who told us that we were a couple weeks late for cross-country skiing. He also warned us of muddy roads and not to push it as you are a long way from anywhere with no cell service.

There were still some nice areas to hike to, including Register Rock. Register Rock and Camp Rock are two large rocks with 150-year-old graffiti left in axle grease by California emigrants.

The most notable were left by Daniel Tucker and A. Freeman. These men made the trip to California to retrieve a relative from the California gold fields and left their names in 1850. After 170 years, the names are still there.

I’d give City of Rocks another month to dry out. When it does it is a great place to visit and camp.

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