Bouldering and Trad Climbing at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

Avery Dufilho

undefinedNicholas Stribling working on Dig Dug v4 during a late night climb. Photo credit: Mia Alfonso

Tucked away in the Ozarks and about 15 minutes outside of Jasper, Arkansas there exists a paradise for climbers. A paradise where the psych is high, and the smell of the mountain air in the morning greets you like a long-lost friend. If you’ve seen Reel Rock 10 and are familiar with the epic battle between the team of Nik Berry and Mason Earle and the great Alex Honnold during 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell then you know where this paradise is; Horseshoe Canyon Ranch.

HCR is a great place to get out and experience adventure, there is so much more to do out at the ranch. They offer horseback riding, canoeing, swimming, hiking, zip lining, skeet shooting, .22 target shooting, archery, and fishing. There truly is something for everyone but for me that adventure is climbing.

Over this past spring break, I was able to head up to HCR with some other University of North Texas climbers for three straight days of climbing. At the ranch there is over 500 routes and something for every climber, from bouldering to sport climbing, and even trad climbing. Trad climbing, also known as traditional climbing, is when the climber will place temporary gear in the cracks of the wall they are climbing in order to create an anchor point to clip their rope to it as they climb.

undefinedMia Alfonso making the clip on Lavender Eye 5.12a. Photo credit: Avery Dufilho

While I was there, we spent a little bit of time bouldering but we mostly sport climbed. The goal for the trip was to send—when one completes a route, shorthand for ascend—at least one 5.11 route. During day two I found one that I thought would be the one to go down; Sonny Jim 5.11a. On my second attempt I was able to sick the crux move, the hardest move on the climb, which is a real height dependent move, and finish the route only taking one fall. After multiple attempts to finish the route, and a lot more falling, I had to call it quits and head back to camp.

The campsite is located on a hill top that looks over the valley. Each campsite has its own fire pit, picnic table, and plenty of space to set up your tent. There is also one main bathroom at the campsite that has hot water and even showers for when you’re feeling particularly nasty. As far as camps go, this was one of the nicer ones. 

That night we decided to head down the mountain into Jasper for dinner at the famous Ozark Café. The Ozark Café is arguably the most popular destination for anyone visiting HCR and Jasper. The café was opened in 1909 and is the second oldest restaurant in Arkansas. The food there is made fresh to order and they have something for everyone, but the burgers are where it's at. The servers are always friendly and our server was able to take care of our whole group of hungry climbers as well as all the other climbers coming down from HCR looking for a hot meal.


Austin Sivoravong setting up camp. Photo credit: Mia Alfonso

On the morning of day three I gave the route another go, but still could not link it all together, that’s when I decided to turn my attention to another route Horseshoes and Hand grenades 5.11a. Even though I cruised through most of the crux I got turned around and fell while trying to get to the better holds. With light running out, destroyed skin, and a long hike back to camp I decided to call it and save these routes for later. In all, the trip was bittersweet but I was happy with the progress I made sport climbing, being that I primarily stick to bouldering. On the other hand, it’s always disappointing to not meet your goals on a climbing trip.  

Masthead Image-Mia Alfonso crossing the bridge back to camp. Photo Credit: Avery Dufilho