Montana Trip: The Other Rock City

Rock City, Montana
Rock City, Montana

While on a trip to Montana in late May 2014, I had the opportunity to visit a place called Rock City, just north of Valier, Montana. (see my recent post on that trip) In and of itself, Valier is not too exciting of small town but it is scenic as it borders Lake Frances, a great bird estuary.

Welcome to Valier, Montana
Welcome to Valier, Montana
Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana

With my daughter, her husband and my grandchildren in tow, we ventured to Valier on our way to Choteau, Montana in order to take a ride out to “Rock City.” It is about a seven mile drive due north of town.

Map to Rock City, Montana
Map to Rock City, Montana

This is not the same Rock City that is located near Chattanooga, Tennessee and has advertisements on barns all over the southeast as shown below.

Rock City near Chattanooga, TN
Rock City near Chattanooga, TN
Old Rock City Barn in Loretto, KY
Old Rock City Barn in Loretto, KY

Instead, this Rock City is a natural “city” of rock formations that have been eroded away by the Two Medicine River.

Satellite view of Rock City (from Google Maps)
Satellite view of Rock City (from Google Maps)
Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Rock City north of Valier, Montana
The Hoodoos of Rock City north of Valier, Montana

To get to Rock City you drive north towards Cut Bank out of Valier on Cut Bank Highway and as the road turns west, you continue north on gravel road (now Rock City Rd.) past Bullhead Rd. and then Dean Rd. and eventually onto a dirt road which eventually comes to a Dead End sign. You can go straight on the dirt, but note that it turns into a little dirt track that’s fairly bumpy and probably more suited to a four-wheel-drive or a large base vehicle.

Rock City Rd. and Bullhead Rd.
Pass Bullhead Road while on Rock City Rd.
Rock City Rd. and Dean Rd., north of Valier, MT
Rock City Rd. and Dean Rd., north of Valier, MT
Farmland along the road to Rock City
Farmland along the road to Rock City
A portion of the road to Rock City
A portion of the dirt track to Rock City

On the approach through prairie lands and farmlands, a big valley, indeed a deep chasm opens up in front of you. The Two Medicine River flows down below and it had quite a strong current at the time we visited due to all the glacier runoff from late spring.

Chasm formed by Two Medicine River
Chasm formed by Two Medicine River (Glacier Wind Farm in background)
Two Medicine River forms a small canyon north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River forms a small canyon north of Valier, Montana

Hundreds of strange rock formations, called “hoodoos” dot the landscape, creating many eerie features. Hoodoos (mushroom-shaped erosional features in badlands) are caused by water from cloudbursts turning the corner at the brim of the overhang, flowing for a distance upside-down on the underside. This type of upside-down flow is well known as a “teapot effect” because it mimics tea being poured from a pot flowing down the underside of the spout rather than straight on into the cup. Many of the hoodoo formations at Rock City are 12 to 20 feet tall and most have the common “hoodoo” big flat tops on them indicating massive amounts of water and wind erosion over what I would assume is centuries of time. Some of the most famous hoodoo formations are common in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

Hoodoos of Rock City
Hoodoos of Rock City
Unique formations at Rock City
Hoodoo buddies at Rock City

For the adventuresome person, hiking down to the river is probably quite possible as there are many locations that are not beholden with cliffs. On this occasion we walked around through many of the formations, but didn’t venture down into the canyon itself.

Rock City near Valier, Montana
Rock City formations near Valier, Montana

To me, though much different in appearance, it was not unlike visiting Coal Mine Canyon which is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation east of Tuba City, Arizona on AZ Hwy 264 past Moenkopi. As a tour guide I took hundreds of folks down dirt roads (in a van of course) to see the hoodoo-like formations of this place.

Coal Mine Canyon satellite photo from Google Maps
Coal Mine Canyon satellite photo from Google Maps
Coal Mine Canyon, AZ 1983
Coal Mine Canyon, AZ 1983
Coal Mine Canyon Hoodoos, 1983
Coal Mine Canyon Hoodoos, 1983
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in 1990
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in 1990
Another view of Coal Mine Canyon, AZ in 1983
Another view of Coal Mine Canyon, AZ in 1983

Like Coal Mine Canyon, it is an undeveloped geologic location that might otherwise be a National Monument or a State Park. But in both cases neither of these appear to be headed in this direction. Both require going down narrow dirt roads and paths to get to them. Both have unique and otherworldly formations. And both have big chasms with beautiful scenes.

Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT
Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT

Up in northern Montana just south of Sweetgrass, there are some similar formations called Jerusalem Rocks. I visited there in January 2012. These are also hoodoo-like in nature, but the grouping of the formation is not nearly as expansive as Rock City.

Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
A rock window at Jerusalem Rocks
A rock window at Jerusalem Rocks
Sumoflam at Jerusalem Rocks in December 2012
Sumoflam at Jerusalem Rocks in December 2012
Jerusalem Rocks, Montana
Jerusalem Rocks, Montana
A giant hoodoo overlooks the prairie valley below at Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
A giant hoodoo overlooks the prairie valley below at Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana

I find all of these out of the way, eerie places to be fascinating and fun to visit. And especially so with grandchildren!

My daughter and her family at Rock City
My daughter and her family at Rock City

And just a few more shots of this unique place

More Rock City Formations
More Rock City Formations
Rock City Hoodoos in northern Montana
Rock City Hoodoos in northern Montana
Rock City Trio
Rock City Trio
Overhangs at Rock City
Overhangs at Rock City
Sisters at Rock City
Sisters at Rock City

If you are ever in the Great Falls area and have an extra day, I highly recommend a drive up US 89 north and then a jaunt over to Valier and Rock City.  You’ll be glad you did.

(2052)

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Sumoflam

Travelographer Extraordinaire. I Enjoy the Ride by traveling and seeing the world around me. We are so busy speeding down the freeways of life that we miss out on the back roads and all the wonderful little stories that every place offers. So, I try to take the less beaten paths and see the real world. I have visited all 50 United States and many provinces in Canada, nearly all prefectures in Japan as well as Seaul, Korea, Shanghai and Suzhou, China and Cenu, Philippines. Also been to Mexico. Father of five, grandfather of 10 and happily married to my sweetheart for nearly 38 years. Fluent in Japanese. Happy and well traveled. See details at http://www.sumoflam.biz/SumoflamBio.htm

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