Rock City, Montana is one of our lesser known Montana attractions and it exists just north of Valier, Montana.
Recently we had the opportunity to visit Rock City and enjoy the rock formations that were created over the course of thousands of years.
Of all of the places in Montana to visit, Rock City should be included in your top 10 list.
Rock City is a collection of various rock formations most often referred to as Hoodoos.
Because wind and water erosion isn’t exclusive to just one area around the world, Hoodoos can be found in places like:
Teide National Park, Tenerife, Canary Islands
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
Goreme Valley and Cappadocia, Turkey
Davolja Varos, Serbia
Putangirua Pinnacles, Wairarapa, New Zealand
Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, New Mexico
Drumheller, Alberta, Canada
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
We traveled north from Great Falls and took the Valier road exit off the interstate just north of Conrad.
Once we got to Valier, we headed north on the Valier Cut Bank highway. We kept heading north when the highway swung to the left and continued on to a gravel road (Rock City road) — when the gravel road cut to the sharp right, we continued straight onto a literal dirt road — situated between two wheat fields, this road continued north. There’s no signage along the way so it’s best to pay attention, go slow, and be mindful of the ruts.
The road led us to a cattle guard and then into the Rock City parking area.
Rock City doesn’t have any services or amenities … just wind, grass, and of course, Hoodoos, scattered about on uneven terrain.
I might also mention that Rock City is in Bear Country. Of all of the blissfully written descriptions about Rock City that I’ve read out there on the interwebs, not once is it mentioned that Bears do in fact inhabit the area.
It’s been said that these rock formations took millions of years to create, but I’m more under the impression, considering just how soft the Sandstone is, that it took mere thousands of years, if even that — If it took millions of years, then these Hoodoos would have been gone long before humans even got here given for the sake of just how erosive water can be. Once the water gets a foothold under just one piece of the bedrock, it can proceed to wear through the Sandstone in pretty short order. Much of these Hoodoos were probably created (underground river) long before the ground around them collapsed. I’m guessing that these structures started out as a cavern system before an errant earthquake or a weakened support system exposed them to the elements.
When we visited the weather was fairly sunny and warm. There were other people there too. The wife was worried about the Bears until she noticed that there were folks clear down at the bottom having a bit of fun playing in the Two Medicine river. The formations all seemed to have an individual character. Though they be the same in description, they each varied somewhat from the other.
Rock City is located on State School Trust Lands, with the southern boundary of the Blackfeet nation just across the river to the north. The area of Rock City is leased for livestock grazing and for recreational use. A recreational use license is required. Overnight use is limited to two consecutive days in the parking area only. Camp fires are prohibited. I might also highly recommend not using a tent if you camp. Soft sided camping in Bear country is never a good idea.
When you stop and notice the rubble along the edges of the canyon floor, one might not help but wonder what Rock City might have looked like a thousand years ago. Even today, with our freeze/thaw cycles the so-called table tops on the Sandstone are failing and falling down. One might venture to guess that in another thousand years, these Hoodoos might exist as merely rounded Sandstone mounds worn smooth by the ravages of time and erosion. I don’t suppose, short of putting a huge roof over the entire complex, that these Hoodoos can be saved as they appear to us today for future generations.
The day was well spent and the visit was great. Be sure to bring water with you on the hot days and a coat with you for those cooler windier days.
Since Bears like to hang out in the brush and scrub during the hot days snoozing, I’ll suggest keeping an eye out for them anyway. Also, be mindful of snakes. They generally like to come out in the early evening and hang out on the rocks for warmth before nightfall.
Oh, and just what is a Hoodoo anyway?
According to Wikipedia, “A hoodoo (also called a tent rock, fairy chimney, or earth pyramid) is a tall, thin spire of rock formed by erosion. Hoodoos typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements. They generally form within sedimentary rock and volcanic rock formations.”
Don’t underestimate the size of Rock City. You could easily find yourself spending an entire day hiking about and looking at things. Rock City is a pretty big place as you might see in this photo to the left — Notice how small the people are down at the river.
You’ll find a gallery below of some of the pictures we took during our visit.