Molly Hitchings

Eisenhower State Park, Ozarks, & Horseshoe Canyon

Molly Hitchings
Eisenhower State Park, Ozarks, & Horseshoe Canyon

Our first dedicated trip to rock climbing!

We had such an amazing trip to the Ozarks last year, we definitely wanted to do it again. And what a better time than over the Thanksgiving holiday! We were hoping to catch a bit more of the fall foliage, but we were a little late. Overall, we stayed at some beautiful campsites, met awesome people, and had an amazing experience climbing at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. Follow the adventure below! 

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Austin - Eisenhower State Park: 272 miles, 4 hours 45 minutes

We left Austin Wednesday evening and drove to Eisenhower State Park, just north of Dallas, to break up our drive to Arkansas. Although we arrived late at night, we got a few hours in the morning to explore the park, which is huge. The campsites all seemed spacious and private. We stayed in the Elm Point Camping Area, which overlooks the water. Had some nice sunrise views against the cliffs and the lake. 

Eisenhower State Park - Fern, AR: 237 miles, 3 hours and 42 minutes

In the morning we headed up to Fern, stopping in Fort Smith along the way to grab some Thanksgiving dinner goodies. We learned about Fern Climbing via Google and decided to check it out. To get to the property, you drive down two very isolated dirt roads, so make sure you have a car with 4 wheel drive, or solid clearance. The climbing at Fern was really fun. Lots of bouldering and some top rope sport climbs as well. Although there is a 'guide book' on their website, some of the routes are mislabeled. So just be aware of what you're climbing. There are also no carabiners at the top of the sport routes, so make sure you're able to repel or throw your rope off the top. 

Camping in Fern/ Mulberry: 

When you leave the climbing area, turn right on the main road and drive for about 5 miles. Shores Lake Campground will be on your right. We stayed there the night of Thanksgiving, and it was great. Private, safe, and has free hot showers! They don't sell firewood, but the park host was kind enough to give us some.

Shores Lake Campground - White Rock Mountain Recreation Area: 7.2 miles, 26 minutes

From the campground, we drove up to White Rock Mountain Recreation area to check out the 360 view. Although beautiful, I could only imagine how crazy the view would be if the fall colors were still around. Great place to take photos, hike, and have lunch.

White Rock Mountain Area - Steel Creek Campground: 68 miles, 2 hours

Back to Steel Creek we go! We loved it so much last year, and it's free after November 15th, so why not. Like last year, it was very quite, and we had unseasonably warm weather. Highs in the 60's, lows in the 30s. Had great neighbors and did some exploring around the Buffalo River, Kyle's Landing, and Triple Falls. Lack of water flowing and colors didn't make for spectacular photos. 

Steel Creek Campground - Horseshoe Canyon Ranch: 4.7 miles, 10 minutes

And the real reason we went back to Arkansas! The climbing! Horseshoe Canyon Ranch has been on our bucket list for a while now, and I'm so glad we got to do it. Truly an outdoor climbing gym. With over 400 routes, this place was amazing. But here's a fun tip: ABSOLUTELY NO DOGS. We learned this the hard way. Luckily, they were nice enough to let us leave Rye in the car for a few hours, but they weren't too happy about it. Since it's private property, they have their own horses, goats, dogs, and other animals roaming the property. They had an issue with a random dog scaring horses and bucking people off during a tour. Overall, truly awesome experience, and we can't wait to go back.

Steel Creek Campground - Austin: 583 miles, 9 hours 30 minutes

And then we did a straight shot back to Austin. Long drive, but worth it to spend the most amount of time in the mountains. A special thanks to Kammok, who let us take a bunch of demo gear as well. We were more than warm at night thanks to their Thylacine Sleeping Bags and Firebelly Quilts. 

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