Rock Climbing

Rappelling in The Natural State

It's not surprising to learn that most of the quality Arkansas rock climbing and bouldering is in the western and northern regions of the state, where the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges are located.

General Information:

Arkansas Climbing Coalition

Ozark Mountains Information:

Ouachita Mountains Information:

Sure, we could go on and on about the excellence of Arkansas rock climbing. But we think Rock and Ice , a national climbing magazine, does the best job. The article below, which was featured in the January 2003 issue, is all about the best rock climbing opportunities in The Natural State. But don't just take our word (or even that of Rock and Ice) -- come see these glorious places for yourself.

Seeing is Believing - America's best unknown cragging may be in the last place you'd look: Arkansas

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch Chad Watkins may have the climber's dream job. Monday through Friday, nine to five, he rides a Kawasaki four wheeler around the private enclave of the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, a 350-acre sprawl just south of the scenic Buffalo National River. When a line on one of the 10 nearby crags -- say something over at Goat Cave -- strikes his fancy, he grabs his partner Jason Roy and establishes it. The bolts, the drill, his salary: everything is supplied by the ranch. Set up as a dude ranch that caters to vacationing families, with horseback rides, swimming pool, cabins and a lodge, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch (HCR) recently expanded its operations to take advantage of the cliffs that belt the valley. The idea is to create a climber's utopia of sorts, where you just show up and climb. The pay-to-play destination comes complete with bolt-equipped routes, trad climbs, campsites, etc.

Watkins stumbled into his rock-farming situation in October 2001, when he showed up at the Ranch "just to hang out and climb. Barry Johnson [the ranch owner] bought me bolts because he wanted to know what was going into his cliff, and it just evolved from there."

The rock, though always sandstone and about a half-rope high, shapeshifts drastically from one crag to the next. One morning you're sidepulling on burnt-orange Arapilles style edges and clipping bolts; that afternoon you're toiling on boiler plates like you've never seen and sliding in nuts. The next day, maybe you mosey over and haul yourself out a horizontal roof. Or maybe you'll just toss the Frisbee around the 18-hole course, then have a soak. "Most people don't even know the stuff is here," says Watkins.

"But the rock is similar to the New River and Red River Gorges. Lump the two together and you get the HCR. There's slopers, pockets, crimps, plates, cracks, you name it." Perhaps best, the Ranch has scads of easy routes. You can go there where they have it set up for climbers, and never run out of options. As of this writing, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch hosts over 150 routes from 5.6 to 5.12, and another hundred are slated to go in next year. When all is said and done, Watkins estimates roughly 300 routes will be ready for action. Just bring your rope, a light rack and wallet.