Hidden Climbing Paradise: the Arkansas River Valley

by | Jul 27, 2022 | River Valley Adventure

The River Valley is being recognized as the hub for all things parks, trails and water, but there is another hidden gym getting more national attention: climbing.

Climbing in the River Valley is attracting enthusiasts from throughout the country because of the mild temperatures and proximity to camping, lodging, entertainment and other adventure sports.

The River Valley boasts several well known crags, canyons and rocks famous for both traditional and bouldering climbing routes.


Traditional Climbing

Often referred to as “Trad” climbing, traditional climbing is a style of rock climbing in which the climber places all the necessary protection gear required to arrest any falls as they are climbing, and then removes it when the pitch is complete. This type of climbing is, in my opinion, the hardest type of climbing because of the amount of equipment and confidence, knowledge and physical and mental strength needed to climb these routes. The advantages of this type of climbing is the ability to expand route selection and tackle more challenging routes. Traditional climbing takes practice; knowledge of ropes, knots and equipment and physical and mental strength.

Sport Climbing

Climbing that relies on anchors permanently fixed into the rock for climber protection, is known as sport climbing. A rope that is attached to the climber is clipped into the anchors to arrest a fall and can also involve climbing short distances with a crash pad underneath as protection. Sport climbing routes can be found both indoors in gyms and outdoors at most of the notable climbing crags. Climbers can focus on having fun and challenging themselves on established routes because the anchor protection has already been placed, making it a less expensive option than trad climbing. Most climbers begin with sport climbing to gain experience, confidence and knowledge and then progress to trad climbing, making it an ideal start to your climbing journey.


This is a form of free climbing that is performed on small rock formations or artificial rock walls, without the use of ropes or harnesses. No real equipment is required with the exception of shoes and a chalk bag. This is the type of climbing most of us did as children, clambering around big boulders in the woods. It is fun and can be as challenging as the climber chooses.


Dardanelle Rock

The climbing crag in the River Valley located nearest to Russellville, is Dardanelle Rock or D Rock. Located just across the Arkansas River in Dardanelle, this easily accessible crag has approximately 24 sport and 13 boulder routes on its hartshorne sandstone face.

D-Rock is known for its hard sport routes and quick access to each. “It almost feels more like a gym than a crag,” according to mountainproject.com.

Experience is a must to climb these routes. This is the perfect local destination to watch climbers and get a feel for what it is like to climb, up close. Parking is just across the street from the rock and it is easy to view the climbers on the various routes.

Sam’s Throne

Sam’s Throne is a legend for its trad and sport climbing routes. With more than 200 traditional and 150 sport routes, this meca is wildly popular with climbers of all abilities who come to camp and test their skills on these beautiful rock faces. Located off of Highway 7 North at Mt. Judea, this site has a small campground and restroom facilities.

This area is located on a high bluff line with beautiful views of the River Valley. Do your research before you head to this climbing paradise. The legends and lore of Sam’s Throne and Mt. Judea will ignite your imagination and make your trip even more enjoyable. Sam’s Throne is a must-visit climbing destination.

Mt. Magazine State Park

Located on top of Arkansas’s highest peak, Mt. Magazine has more than 100 traditional, sport and bouldering routes on its 1,500 foot wide swath of sandstone located on its south bluff that overlooks the Petit Jean River. This is a true “vacation climbing destination” because of its location within Mt. Magazine State Park; its lodge, restaurant, cabins and camping accommodations. Climbers can come to Mt. Magazine, climb, boulder, rappel and then enjoy the amenities of the park.

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch located outside of Jasper, is an internationally known ranch with more than 400 trad and sport routes on its vast canyon walls. Beginner and experienced climbers from all over the world come to this ranch to experience the canyon’s rich selection of climbing routes. This ranch has camping sites, cabins, and other accommodations for those wanting to spend time exploring all this unique climbing canyon has to offer.

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch also has certified climbing guides to help guide and ensure that you have the best possible experience. For anyone interested in learning how to climb, I highly recommend making reservations and going to this ranch to experience what climbing is all about.


Check out the Arkansas Climbing Coalition website to find out more about climbing in Arkansas. You can find detailed information about meetings, events, classes and festivals. This group of climbing advocates is your source for finding the right group to begin your climbing adventure in Arkansas.

There are also two books that I highly recommend: Rock Climbing Arkansas and Arkansas Bouldering, both by Cole Fennel. These books give the reader everything they need to know about climbing in Arkansas.

Climbing in Arkansas is exploding with more and more people coming to the River Valley to experience its unique and inviting atmosphere and resources. It’s is your basecamp for experiencing this natural way to get high!

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