Lowdown on Climbing and Camping

Table of Contents:
I. Arkansas
a) Horseshoe Canyon Ranch
b) Cowell

II. The Southeast
a) Rocktown
b) Little Rock City aka Stonefort

III. Utah
a) Joe’s Valley


[[Horseshoe Canyon Ranch]]

  • CAMPING: You can camp at HCR for $5/person/night (in addition to $5 climbing/person/day)
    —To save money, there are plenty of Buffalo National River Campgrounds that are 100% free from mid-November to Mid-March. At other dates, it’s $10/night/site. The locations can be difficult to find on a GPS unless you enter in the exact lat/long coordinates that are provided on that site. All sites are a stone’s throw to the picturesque Buffalo River. We stayed at two sites, so I’ll briefly discuss them:

    • Ozark Campground (See point “A” on map): 1 mile dirt road entrance, downhill. Large round field with campsites (35 total) around the perimeter, a covered pavilion with picnic tables in the center. No water or bathrooms during off-season. Usually deserted during off-season, so you could have the whole place to yourself. Closer to Jasper (Point “B”). 14 miles to HCR (Point “C”).
    • Steel Creek Campground (See point “D” on map): 1-2 mile paved road entrance, downhill. Stay left at bottom fork and access row of sites (26 total). No water available, but there was a luxurious porta-potty open during the off-season. This was a much more populated campground. 6 miles to HCR (Point “C”).
      HCR camping
  • CLIMBING: HCR is $5/person/day to climb. There’s a guidebook and plenty of other resources for more information. Look out for Chili, the adorable crag dog who will follow you around all day.
  • RESTING: For a wonderfully convenient place to chill on rest days, look no further than Trudy’s Coffee. Right off Hwy 74 only 9 miles from HCR. Open 6am-11pm Mon-Sat. There’s cozy indoor and outdoor seating, outlets, free wifi (I wrote them special instructions to get connected with a mac, so ask at the counter if you can’t get online), coffee, cakes, cheap delicious sandwiches, as well as a random thrift shop with clothing, books and movies. Say hi to Mark if he still works there.
  • More resting: If you have multiple rest days, or don’t mind driving a bit farther, head to Harrison, AR. This bigger-than-Jasper city has everything you might need, including a Walmart, health food grocery store (10% off if you bring your HCR guidebook), laundromats with free wifi, and the best place to hang out is Neighbor’s Mill. They have space for dining (with really good food!), or three smaller coffee shop tables where you can plug in and veg out on your computer while noshing on delicious freshly-made pastries, coffee and smoothies. Stock up on groceries at Harrison’s Bent and Dent Grocery, a wholesale grocery where you can buy everything you could desire at a fraction of the price.



Fred’s Cave in Cowell, AR.
  • Where is this place? Here. The roads are a bit sketchy, so be careful if it’s snowy or muddy. Make sure you take the road from Hwy 7/16 or you’re in for a beautiful but long dirt road through farm land. (To see what I’m talking about check out that map and follow it right where it comes from Mt. Judea versus down left, an easier stretch from Hwy 7/16 on Nfm 1204.)
  • CAMPING: Free. You’re in the middle of the woods, so you can sleep in your vehicle, or there are a bunch of adorable campsites scattered among the boulders with some nice fire rings. Camp at Fountain Red or Invasion. Don’t forget to bring your own water.
  • CLIMBING: There’s Cowell info in the Arkansas climbing book. There’s a video Drexel made of some of our favorite climbs in Arkansas. And here’s a 20 minute video of some other climbs. Cowell is where you will find Fred’s Cave, if you didn’t already know.
  • RESTING: Enjoy the nature. There really isn’t much else to do nearby, unless you want to head to the tiny town of Cowell, AR. But you should probably just stay in the mountains and hike around or read a book.


The Southeast


  • CAMPING: Free, except you’ll need a Georgia Outdoor Recreational Pass (GORP) to avoid getting hassled by rangers. You can camp at the base of the mountain, or Sawmill Campgrounds is at the top, exactly one mile from the rocktown trailhead. No bathrooms at either, and the only water is from a spigot at the ranger station down at the bottom of the mountain. Usually the roads are great, but they don’t clear them, so be careful going uphill in the snow.
  • CLIMBING: Get the guidebook. It’s wonderful. Again, you’ll need a GORP. You can try to slip in and climb for free, and maybe it will work, but sometimes the rangers hike around the boulders and they will kick you out if you don’t have one. They aren’t very friendly, and will probably threaten a $720-something fine. Don’t risk it.
  • *About the GORP*: It’s really not expensive. You can’t buy it at the station, so save yourself the hassle and buy it online before you go. You can get an individual or small group (max 8 people) pass, for 3 days or an entire year. 1 person/3 days = $3.50 or /year = $19. 8 people/3 days = $10 or /year = $35. Don’t sweat it. For groups, unless you are constantly sticking together, it could be smart to take a photo with your camera/phone so everyone has a copy on hand.
  • RESTING: The closest town is Lafayette, GA. There’s not much there, just a heads up, but you probably don’t need much. They have a library with wifi, outlets and some comfy seating areas. (Also note, the library has temporarily moved into the old Food Lion building, so if your GPS takes you to a closed down building, search for the McDonalds and check the lot behind it.) Only downside is the library is closed weekends and Wednesday. On those days, head to the nearby McDs for wifi, but no outlets, or Hardee’s for free coffee refills but no wifi. The only two good food options are Los Guerroros (killer and ridiculously speedy Mexican food) or Twins (italian stuff like pasta, BOGO pizza). Bi-Lo is the only grocery store. I’ve heard there is a Walmart, but it’s farther away, so we just went to CVS for random necessities.
  • More resting: We usually went into Chattanooga for multiple rest days. There’s lots to do there, but check out LRC’s resting section for more info.
  • Even more resting: If you have a clear day that you want to move around a bit without climbing, I highly recommend checking out Cloudland Canyon State Park. It’s about 30 minutes from Rocktown, $5 parking per vehicle, and has a number of gorgeous hikes with views of canyons and waterfalls. Just resist climbing on any of the rocks, because it’s illegal and dangerous.
The biggest rock at Cloudland Canyon State Park.


[[Little Rock City AKA Stonefort]]

  • CAMPING: We usually opted to sleep in our van in the Whole Foods parking lot. It seemed pretty legit and we felt safe, but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. You don’t have much privacy, there are bright street lights, and there’s no bathroom once the store closes. There is always Wal-mart. I’ve heard there is also Raccoon Mountain for camping (nice amenities but ~$20/night/site), or you can throw down some bucks to stay at the infamous Crash Pad Hostel. We’ve met the owners, and they are super nice. An upside to staying there is meeting fellow climbers, wifi, and a free do-it-yourself breakfast plus coffee.
  • CLIMBING: Guidebook it. $5/day/person. Collect all the wristband colors!
  • RESTING: If the weather is making you antsy, head to TBA, the climbing gym that will make you cry like a gumby. Super cheap with stout high-quality bouldering that will kick your ego down a notch. Right next to the gym is Pasha Coffee & Tea where you can chillax with your laptop, or head to the quieter back room to chill with a good book on a comfy couch. Another good cafe is Stone Cup. For a more active rest day, there is tons to see and do in Chatty that doesn’t cost a penny, just look it up. Tennessee Aquarium is awesome, but it’ll cost you a pretty $30.



[[Joe’s Valley]]

  • CAMPING: Free to camp anywhere on the side of the road where you can fit a car. It will be obvious what those spots are. If they’re not too crowded, try to get a spot near one of the two porta-potty’s on Left or Right fork.
  • CLIMBING: Check out the guidebook. Or google search for videos.
  • RESTING: When not climbing, a majority of climbers head to the Sparten Den, a free upstairs loft at the Food Ranch. Free Wi-Fi, lots of seating, and an entire grocery store of food. Food Ranch is famous for their butterfinger donuts, but I prefer the made-to-order personal pan pizzas. This is also a great place to meet other climbers if you’re lonely.
  • More RESTING: If you have an entire day to rest, drive 7 minutes to the nearby Castle Dale. Here, you can explore artifacts and dinosaur bones at the Museum of the San Rafael Swell and take a hot shower at the Emery County pool for $4 (and swim in the heated pool, if you don’t mind pruney fingers). There are more museums around Emery County, including Castle Dale’s Pioneer History Museum. There’s also a laundromat in Castle Dale, which you probably need more than you know.


2 thoughts on “Lowdown on Climbing and Camping”

  1. Meira, you are doing a great job. Super helpful information for others camping and climbing. Give that boy a hug for me………and one for you too. Love you guys!


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Following the adventures of two rock climbers and their minivan

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