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Arkansas Rock Climbing 

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Anyone ready for some backwoods climbing. That's right, there ain't no high alpine to be found here. There's just down and dirty backwoods climbing on high-quality sandstone. Though overlooked for a long time by the big names, the locals haven't complained. Over the years they have put up excellent quality natural lines from the classic dihedral Poison Ivy (5.7+) to harder lines such as Titanic (5.11X) and Bear Bait (5.12- S), all at Sam's Throne.

In addition to the classic trad routes, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch hosts a number of excellent quality bolted lines of all difficulties, even up to Sharma's famous "Paying the Rent"(5.14a). The moderate mecca of the Midwest, holding an extremely large concentration of climbing in its domain. An excellent place for those just getting into the sport of climbing, or seasoned veterans, as there is something for everyone at the Ranch. Arguably one of the single best climbing destination in the whole Midwest.

Other than the famed HCR, Arkansas is on the cusp of it's golden age, with new routes going up by the day, there is something to be found around every corner and the only limitations are access and imagination. If your one for adventure and travelling off the beaten path to find some Southern Sandbagging as well as world class pitches deep within the hills of the Ozarks, it is well worth your time and memories to stray away from the ranch to see what the "Natural State" has to offer.

For a taste of real backwoods climbing in Arkansas, places like the Cowell area or Prohibition/Rock Creek Area offer 4 star climbs in remote settings.


The latest guidebooks are as follows.

Rock Climbing Arkansas 2nd Edition- Cole Fennel

Rock Climbing Photo: Rock Climbing Arkansas 2nd Edition
Rock Climbing Arkansas 2nd Edition

Rock Climbing Horseshoe Canyon- Cole Fennel

Rock Climbing Photo: HCR Guidebook
HCR Guidebook

Arkansas Rock: Volume I by Clay Frisbie.

If you are climbing in the state chances are you are climbing at/near horseshoe canyon. Jasper is the closest town with amenities. There is a small grocery and some eateries.

Beware, Newton County IS dry, therefor if your looking for a drink, you'll have to drive up to Harrison Arkansas. Best to prepare ahead of time.

Some useful websites are:


Climbing Season

For the All Locations area.

Weather station 12.4 miles from here

1,482 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',162],['3 Stars',586],['2 Stars',514],['1 Star',186],['Bomb',5]

Classic Climbing Routes in Arkansas

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Arkansas:
Cotton Candy   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Sport, 60'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Poison Ivy   5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 1 pitch, 55'   The Throne : Poison Ivy Wall
The Greatest Show on Earth   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Green Goblin   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 65'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Swamp Rat   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : Cliffs of Insanity
African Herbman   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 55'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Strongman   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 50'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Hackberry Crack   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 50'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : Walls Of Moria
First Normal Form   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Sport, 65'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Man Servant   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Sport, 55'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : Mr. Magoo Rock
Orange Crush   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Sport   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The Far East
Private Property   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 55'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Season of the Storm   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 65'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Sour Girl   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 35'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Commodus   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 65'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : Roman Wall
Learning to Fly   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 55'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : Prophecy Wall
Crimp Scampi   5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 60'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The Far East
Sonny Jim   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Big Top   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 65'   Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : The North Forty
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Arkansas

Featured Route For Arkansas
Rock Climbing Photo: moving to crescent

The Crescent V3 6A  Arkansas : Horseshoe Canyon Ranch : ... : South Idaho's
SS left of crescent hold on slopers, climb up slab to crescent, and top-out....[more]   Browse More Classics in Arkansas

Photos of Arkansas Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: last few moves of Dusk til Dawn
last few moves of Dusk til Dawn
Rock Climbing Photo: The Prohibition Wall
The Prohibition Wall
Rock Climbing Photo: Alec Dehaven on "Painted Warrior"  Photo...
Alec Dehaven on "Painted Warrior" Photo...
Rock Climbing Photo: Southern Sandstone at its best
Southern Sandstone at its best
Rock Climbing Photo: 5.10c on pillar, sport
5.10c on pillar, sport
Rock Climbing Photo: Infamous Beak
Infamous Beak
Rock Climbing Photo: Classic. just classic.
Classic. just classic.
Rock Climbing Photo: TC on the goldline
TC on the goldline
Rock Climbing Photo: Chris on hurricane handouts
BETA PHOTO: Chris on hurricane handouts
Rock Climbing Photo: Hackberry
Rock Climbing Photo: Roark Bluff along the Buffalo River near Ponca, Ar...
Roark Bluff along the Buffalo River near Ponca, Ar...
Rock Climbing Photo: Boxley valley elk
Boxley valley elk

Comments on Arkansas Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Oct 3, 2017
By Jason Haas
Nov 2, 2009
The new comprehensive, color guidebook for the entire state by Cole Fennel and Fixed Pin Publishing is now available in stores. It details nearly 1500 routes and 350 boulder problems.

Areas described include:

Lake Lincoln
Shepherd Springs
Mt. Magazine
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch
Haw Creek
Cave Creek
Valley of the Blind
Sam's Throne
Stack Rock
Jamestown Crag
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By Luke Stollings
From: Austin, TX
Jun 29, 2010
Hey Y'all! There's a great new guidebook out from Fixed Pin Publishing for the whole state of Arkansas! Called, Rock Climbing Arkansas by Cole Fennel, the subtitle is "comprehensive roped climbing and select bouldering." Here's the review I wrote on Google Books.

Finally a guidebook for Arkansas! Finally a chance to self-guide at places like Mt. Magazine and Sam's Throne! I just picked this book up at a recent trip to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. It is without a doubt the best climbing guidebook I have ever used. Cole Fennel has climbed all over the U.S. and was paying attention to what makes a guidebook durable and user-friendly; he and the people at Fixed Pin Publishing spared no effort and expense to get this thing just right. The first thing you notice is the color format and heavy, glossy paper. The second thing is that the topos are color photographs of the faces with route lines photoshopped in -- a huge improvement over line drawings. Route descriptions in Rock Climbing Arkansas supply lots of useful info: finding the climb, main characteristics, and the height and protection. For example, a sport line will end with "5 bolts, 45 feet," while a mixed route might say, "1 bolt, SR (that's standard rack) up to #4 camalot, no anchors."
These features alone would make this a great book, but the thoughtful touches just keep coming. Overview maps show access and relative positions of the different walls or areas, and other maps drill down so that each wall or group of walls has its own top-view map. My only criticism of this well-coordinated system is when it breaks down: the huge "West Side" section of HCR (including what used to be Crackhouse Alley, Confederate Cracks, Walls of Moria, Black Slabs, etc.) contains no overview map, so you have to page through and look at the individual sub-area top-views, and follow text instructions to access them. This is particularly disappointing since it is the very first section of the Horseshoe Canyon chapter, and most likely the first pages many who pick up the book will study. Still, in the end it’s not that hard to figure out.
On both top-view maps and on the topo photos, route numbers and photoshopped lines are color-coded: red for sport, blue for trad, yellow for bouldering -- even the elusive green for mixed lines. And it keeps getting better. Each area has its own unique colored header, so once you're at, say, Cowell, it's easy to flip right to it in the book because you know it's got a royal blue header on every page. Next to the title of each subsection are a series of graphics that summarize the approach time, AM/PM sun and shade beta, and a bar chart summarizing the relative abundance of climbing at each grade (also color coded for sport, trad, mixed, and boulder)! Identical state maps grace both front and back inside covers showing principal highways and towns with each of the climbing areas numbered and referenced in a key. A simple table of contents gets you to the area of interest, and for larger areas like Sam's Throne, HCR, or Mt. Magazine, that area has its own sub-index. Approaches, camping, restaurants and groceries all get succinct explanations.
There's more: Indices by route name and by grade, of course, and the grade index is subdivided into trad, sport, mixed, and bouldering, following the now-familiar color-coded format. The book is peppered with sidebars and spreads highlighting local luminaries, "Hit Lists" featuring tops climbs for each area, and even thematic Hit Lists such as the best trad lines under 5.9 for the whole state. Finally, the book is built for durability, with a stitched, cloth-reinforced spine and a heavy, oversized cover to protect the page edges. A final touch are cover flaps front and back that you can use as bookmarks. All in all, it's the best-conceived and best-executed guide you may ever use. For what you get it's a total steal at $37.95. I’m dying to wear mine out.

You can visit Fixed Pin Publishing's website at and order there -- or they have a list of retail establishments that are carrying it.
By Erik Pohlman
From: Westminster, CO
Dec 10, 2010
From Tony Mayse, originally on the Flying Elvis page:

With permission from my friend Chad I post this message.

Dear friends,

If you are not aware, there's a bit of a controversy brewing in the Arkansas climbing community. The central issue is that some climbers are putting fixed chains on routes that were previously established without such niceties. By fixed chains, I'm referring to 10 inches of heavy chain link attached permanently to the bolt hangar on one end and to a carabiner on the terminal end. This amounts to a permanently fixed draw.

There are generally two reasons for this. First, on particularly steep routes, as in Kentucky's horizontal terrain, it can make it easier to clip. Second, you can conveniently climb grades beyond your onsight limits since you don't need to worry about leaving bail gear behind; you can just lower off of the fixed chain-draw.

Normally, the accepted community standard is that the first ascentionist gets to determine the style of a route. This rule is widely accepted. I personally think it's perhaps a bit too simple. For instance, it leaves room for people to free solo first ascents on grades well below their own climbing level. In this case, the rule fails because it allows folks who are climbing well to enforce their style on climbers of lower levels. I cite this example only to acknowledge that the community standard of the first ascent precedent is a nebulous and not always "good" way to determine what should and should not occur.

Acknowledging this, I will go beyond a mere restatement of the accepted "style of the first ascentionist" rights when saying that I absolutely, positively don't want to see chains hanging off of the many beautiful routes that I established in Arkansas. I put those routes up and I will remove any unsightly, and unnecessary, hardware I find on them. ( And don't try to tell me that I am stealing; I'm fairly certain that there's no such thing as property rights on things left in the woods. )

But, as I said, I will explain myself. Let's try to carry on like more like a community than members of oppositional political parties. My position starts from several key principles, that I would hope are shared by the majority of climbers. Please speak up if you disagree with these. 1) Climbing is better than other "sports" because it provides a spiritual and aesthetic satisfaction far beyond competition and personal glory. 2) Climbing takes place in the natural environment, and that environment is taking a frontal assault as the world rapidly overpopulates.

My logic is simple. The spiritual and aesthetic aspects of climbing are something special. They are not about convenience. They are not about numbers. They are the motivational soul that will keep you psyched and continue to nourish your soul throughout your life. If you run out of psych, you we're chasing numbers and ego. This is the energy that led me to hand paint my bolt hangers and anchors so that the beauty of the rock wouldn't be marred. When I see a couple pounds of raw chain hanging from each bolt, it is VERY hard to believe that the folks who installed that stuff are feeling the spiritual / aesthetic connection.

And this lead nicely back to point number 2. Climbing takes place in the natural environment. As the world overpopulates, the natural environment will become more and more damaged. Not just from industry and global warming, but from user impact. As we speak, climber areas ARE being closed due to heavy impact. This will only increase. Even if you are unconcerned with the spiritual and aesthetic, simple access to climbing demands that we focus on minimizing impact as much as possible. If we don't address this, access will be restricted at some point during our lifetimes. I'm only 40 years old, I fully intend to be sending for another 3 or 4 decades. Protecting access by minimizing impact should be the priority of every climber. Again, a couple pounds of chain hanging from every bolt is not the way to minimize impact.

I can see no other excuse for these fixed chains except convenience. If convenience outweighs your sense of spiritual and aesthetic reward, you'll run out of psyche long before you run out of life -- and that won't be fun. While it's easy to detect the ire in my words here, I hope it's also easy to detect my love for climbing. And if I have climbed with you, or even spoke with you about climbing, I think we both know that we share this love. I believe that we all know that climbing is better than other "pass times", and we should hold ourselves to the highest standards.

By Ryan Ray
From: Weatherford, TX
Sep 8, 2011
This past weekend my wife and I took a trip to Arkansas for the first time in a number of years. I have always loved the Beauty and Serenity of climbing in Arkansas. Its a beautiful state. The lush forests and beautiful terrain and rock have always attracted me there. Not to mention the remote feeling of climbing there. This weekend my opinion has changed somewhat.

Ill tell you a little about our experience this weekend. We spent the 3 day weekend camping alone at cave creek. On the second day, I took my wife up the casual route wandering spirit. I was was trying to shoot photos of her following it while sitting at the anchors on involuntary man slaughter and was so disturbed by all the chains hanging from the roof on brick attack and the other routes.. Looked like a damn climbing gym. It took so much away from the wilderness experience we had this weekend because those chains were just so noticeable and hideous. I personally have never seen anything so ugly done by climbers in the entire 20+ years i have been climbing now. It was the first time ever that I felt ashamed to be a climber. I am 33 years old so I am a member of the somewhat younger climbing generation, and I just don’t get it.

We also visited Hudson Mountain. It was my first time there and visited it based on recommendation of a friend, and I felt sick just walking the base of the wall. I saw chain after chain hanging below what could be an amazing wall and routes, and some bolts on routes that would be otherwise protectable with bomber natural gear. It is my opinion that all of these fixed draws should be removed and the bolts on protectable routes be pulled and the holes patched. But that is purely my opinion. I will refrain from acting on it. Its ashamed because I thought the area was beautiful, the wall was amazing and the few routes I had a chance to get on seemed pretty good. This area could be so much more beautiful without all the hunks of chain everywhere.

It makes no since to me why anyone would want to take such beautiful places and degrade their physical appearance to that of an indoor gym. Especially in an area like Cave Creek where the use of fixed draws has not been traditionally acceptable in the past. I do understand the close proximity of Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and the Lack of outdoor ethics present there (which is why i will not visit there again), but will never understand the whole concept of fixed chain draws hanging all over the cliffs of Arkansas. Arkansas is so much more beautiful than that. Why can we not keep it that way. Why can we not preserve what few natural outdoor resources we still have in their natural state.

I trad climb and sport climb both, so I understand and have no issue with the use of bolts as long as they are not overdone. But bolts can be very hard to see. Heck i have been on routes and been right next to a bolt and never saw it because it was so camo’d. But those chains are in your face from the minute you walk around the corner. Those are the kinds of things that give us as climbers a bad reputation with the non climbing community. Hikers, backpackers, campers, nature viewers and whoever else may wonder down below these cliffs and see the ugliness. Bolts they may never see…but there is no missing the chains.

I feel truly saddened for the first time ever to belong to this group we call climbers.


By ferrells
Sep 15, 2011
Any word on when Mr. Fennel's going to publish the bouldering guide? Is this still happening?
By Jason Haas
Sep 19, 2011
ferrells, yep. Cole is doing a comprehensive bouldering book to the state right now.
By ferrells
Sep 23, 2011
Has he said anything about when it is likely to be done?
By Eero46
Feb 19, 2012
What is the best book for a bouldering guide to Cowell (fountain red) and HCR?
By Jason Haas
Feb 19, 2012
Eero46, Cole Fennel's book is still the best one out there. It's the only one for Fountain Red and the only one in color for HCR
By Lee Neale
From: Brevard, NC
Jun 7, 2012
Does anyone have any beta about the bluffs on the Buffalo? Specifically the bluffs around the Steel Creek Access. Any info would be great. Thanks, Lee.
By Jon Wood
Jun 28, 2012
@Lee Neale, we've been eyeing those bluffs. Looks like there's a few routes on that bulgy pillar feature. I've been told it's choss though. Bolting isn't allowed. Damn feds. Chad Watkins put up a route at Kyle's Landing last week. Mentioned some choss. Looks worth it though. Keep me posted. I'm headed back to Alaska in a week or so, but I'd like to put in some work on them this fall. Hit me up on facebook,
By Mike-R
From: springfield, Mo
Aug 23, 2012
Can anyone tell me about the hudson mountain area?
By Ryan Ray
From: Weatherford, TX
Nov 17, 2012
Even more reason to remove those unsightly fixed draws. Lets get that junk off the rock!!!!!

Mammut calls for removal of Fixed Draws
By Chet Butterworth
From: Chattanooga
Jan 15, 2013
How much, if any, climbing is along the Buffalo National River?

I'm not from the area and planning a paddle trip and wondering if -- hoping I can -- bring a rack and rope along.
By michaeltarne
Mar 3, 2013
Hey Chet, depending on where you are, there's a ton of awesome climbing right off of the river. For example, HCR is less than a ten minute drive from Steele Creek campgrounds.
By Nate Moore
From: On the road
Jan 4, 2014
If your dirtbaggieness is wearing out and you need a place to stay thats not a tent, Dogwood Springs Campground in Jasper has some low priced cabins. The management is nice, and welcoming to climbers.
From: ok
May 4, 2014
Looking for a climbing partner in Arkansas. May 6, 7, 8. This coming tues weds thurs. Anybody free for an adventure? HCR; fern; sams throne; stack rock; anywhere iam down. Thanks a lot.
By ClimbingChemist
Sep 2, 2014
Anyone looking for a climbing partner in the area? I'm up in Harrison, AR writing a thesis so I have a lot of time.

Apr 27, 2015
Out at Lovers Leap (Osage Creek) checking out this bluff. Found several anchors...bolts...and awesome overhanging crazy climbs. Is there any beta in regards to access, # of climbs, grades, etc. it's near the town of Rudd.
By chris magness
Nov 27, 2015
Mountain Project's list of Arkansas classic routes is misrepresentative: excellent climbing abounds beyond Horseshoe's realm. I expect one day that we'll all be astounded at the explosion of Ozark route development that occurred under our noses, clip-ups that rival that of RRG with a pump that can only be found in the south, and trad lines true to old school spirit found at many of the conuntry's earlier crags. Arkansas is home to many back-woodsy secret cliffs and will be known as a cooler-month destination.

For now, Sam's Throne is not to be missed. Bring provisions though, there's nothing around. Jamestown and Mt. Magazine are also quite good, both hosts of classic AR lines (the latter boasting the most honest grades in the state).

I developed some stuff in the Hot Springs area. Except for one little buttress, it isn't worth a visit unless you're passing through. Ouchita Outdoor Outfitters has a topo and area beta.
By Arielle Trinidad
Oct 17, 2016
Hey All! Looking for a climbing partner this week or next, I'm visiting Eureka Springs and would love to drive down to Horseshoe Canyon and climb with someone, I don't have boulder pads or ropes, though. Email me if interested Thank you!
By Drew Nevius
From: Oklahoma
May 17, 2017
If you're looking for partners, lost/found gear, or have questions, the best place to check would be the "Arkansas Climbers" group on Facebook
By Nick Bose
Aug 6, 2017
Is there still a comprehensive state wide bouldering only guide book in the works? Haven't heard anything about it in a little while.
By Drew Nevius
From: Oklahoma
Oct 3, 2017
Check their Instagram for updates on the bouldering only guide:

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