Rock climbing in the Southeastern USA


Photo by Dustin Brown - View of Sam's ThroneArkansas - Sam's Throne and surrounding areas

Image - samll relief map of Arkansas with location of Sam's Throne indicated by a yellow starLocation

Sam's Throne is located in the Ozark National Forest about 2.5 hours (130 miles) north of Little Rock and roughly the same time and distance south of Springfield, Missouri. The nearest town is Mt. Judea.

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Photo by Gus Mueller - Cliff line at Sam's ThroneDescription

A surprising amount of climbing is found in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas. The flat topped mountains are capped by high quality atoka sandstone that is described as similar in quality to that found in the Red River and New River Gorges to the east. This highly featured solid rock is found in exposed cliff lines along the tops of the mesas cut by numerous streams and rivers.

See larger view of cliff line

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Sam's Throne

Photo by Dustin Brown - Kaylynn Nossaman on Albino Rhino 5.7 at Sam's ThroneSam's Throne is the oldest of several climbing areas found on along the broad flat mountain tops of the Ozark area. The Atoka sandstone caprock that forms the cliffs at Sam's Throne encircles about a three mile area. Major cliffs include East and West Main Bluff, The Outback with its big overhanging cracks, shady Northern Exposure, and the 90 foot walls of Hero Maker and Valley of the Blind and Deliverance. There are several other areas nearby including the sport climbing area at Cave Creek, Horseshoe Canyon Guest Ranch, Rickett Mountain, Kent Mountain, and Cherokee Crags.

The climbs range from short bouldering to 60' - 75' pitches, most ideal for top roping. The Atoka sandstone is laced with solution pockets and knobs as well as with numerous crack systems. Because of the highly featured rock which takes protective gear well, the first bolt did not appear at Sam's Throne until 1987. A strong traditional climbing ethic persists.

These large number of features makes Sam's Throne and the surrounding areas an excellent place for beginners. Most routes are in the 5.7 to 5.10 range and are easily top roped.

View larger photo of Albino Rhino

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Cave Creek Canyon

Cave Creek, a few miles from Sam's Throne, is one of the premier sport climbing destinations in Arkansas. "Discovered " in the fall of 1989 by two southern Missouri climbers, Cave Creek was quickly developed into a sport climbing area. It is not exclusively a sport area though, as the natural protection is good enough to offer about as many traditional lines as sport routes. There is also some excellent bouldering found here.

Cave Creek is located about 3 1/2 miles south of Sam's Throne on Highway 123. Follow an old logging road on the east side of the highway down about 1/4 mile through a huge mud puddle to a clearing. The trails are to the right (South) of the road.

Rocklist data

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Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is a 350 acre dude ranch just south of the scenic Buffalo National River. It caters primarily to vacationing families, with horseback rides, a swimming pool, cabins and a lodge. It also caters to climbers who visit to climb the many cliffs that line the canyon. The ranch staff have put up hundreds of bolt-equipped routes and traditional climbs. The excellent rock has a diversity of features and loads of easy routes. Bring a rope and a light rack. There is a $5 climbing fee per day. Camping costs $5 per day. The Horseshoe Canyon Ranch has climbing guides for hire for $50 per day plus $25 per person (year-round). The Ranch has hosted the region's annual Climber's Rendezvous with more than 150 climbers attending. (870-446-2555)

Visit Horseshoe Canyon Guest Ranch ( for more information. Free topos are available at the Rock and Ice web site at

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Photo courtesy - Karen Bingle cleaning Hamburger Helper 5.9 at Sam's ThroneDirections

From from Mt. Judea, wind south on highway 123 up the steep and sharp switchbacks about 3.5 miles. There are no signs, local guidance is highly recommended. Look for a rock barn marking the left turn into the large open parking area. Turn left once you have found the entrance. Odometer readings: to Mt. Perversion 2.5 miles, Northern Exposure 4.0, Sam's Throne, Main Bluff, East and West Main Bluff (left), Outback and main free camping areas at 4.3 (right), Hero Maker 4.8, Lookout Point 5.4, Valley of the Blind 5.6, Deliverance 6.0, and Cave Creek 7.5 miles.

From Latrine, 10 miles north on highway 123, about 1 mile past overlook. Park on the left. Hike 1/2 mile to main cliff.


View larger photo of Karen

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Photo by Kirstin - Gus Mueller after leading Patio DirectCliff Access

To access the Sam's Throne, East and West main bluffs, turn left once you have found the entrance. You'll notice a lot of campsites near the bluff line. From the Sam's Throne camping area, head down the south road until it ends at a campsite. The road turns into a trail. At the end of the trail you'll be standing on a cliff looking right at the throne formation. Access to the base of the cliffs is found a couple hundred yards to the left along the cliffline. Scramble down through a boulder fall area.

The Outback can be accessed by going right. Look for one of several descent trails on the west main bluff side.

View large image of Gus

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Image - Guidebook - Sam's Throne Area Guidebooks

Classic Rock Climbs No. 22: Sam's Throne, Arkansas by Clay Frisbie. Publisher: Chockstone Pr; 1 edition (October 1999) ASIN: 1575400472 . Currently out of Print, a few copies were still available on

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Sam's Throne: Poison Ivy (5.7) , White Trash (5.9), Patio Direct (5.9), Instant Karma (5.10+), Dry County (5.10+) Blind In Both Eyes (5.10+), Edge of Flight (5.10), Crack Me Up (5.8), Albino Rhino (5.7), Boston Rag (5.7-), Fun Alley (5.7)

The Outback: Silver Fish (5.9), Lonely Lizard (5.9+), Crater Face (5.10+) , All Star Wrestling (5.12), Sonic Love Jugs (5.11)

Northern Exposure: Bones and Steel (5.8), Euthanasia(5.13), Fatal Attraction (5.11), User Friendly (5.9)

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Logo - National Forest ServiceLand Manager:

Ozark-St. Francis National Forests
605 West Main
Russellville, AR 72801
479- 968-2354
Buffalo Ranger District
Jasper, AR
Ozark - St. Francis National Forest

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image - caduceus -  symbol of medicineEmergency Information:

911, Newton County

image - carabinerGear:

60 meter ropes will be most versatile for the top roping as well as some of the trad and sport routes. Bring a full rack for traditional climbing. Plenty of moderate to long slings are recommended, as well as lots of quick draws for the sport routes.

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Camping at Sam's Throne is free. No facilities or running water. Please pack out ALL trash. Chopping down trees is illegal, but gathering dead wood is permitted. Grocery supplies in Jasper and Mt. Judea. 

Nearby Richland Creek Wilderness has waterfalls and a great swimming hole. The Buffalo National River offers some of the best canoeing and kayaking in the Midwest, and the abandoned logging roads provide excellent mountain biking. For hikers, the Ozark Highlands Trail and Buffalo River Trail are close by.

For accomdations in the area try

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Any time except summer. Fall and winter are best.

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Access Notes

Respect private property. Many of the outlying and tempting crags are private. Landowners in the part of the country take their privacy seriously.

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Sometime in the 1820's buffalo hunter Sam Davis, in search of his sister who he claimed had been kidnapped by Indians, climbed on top on a sandstone outcrop and preached fiery sermons to the hardscrabble settlers who lived below. Besides spewing damnation, Davis claimed to have a hoard of gold stashed on the summit of his rock, and built a log blockade across the formation's walk up to keep out would-be thieves. He also said he'd live for 1,000 years. His rock pulpit became known as Sam's Throne.

Clay Frisbie is the author of the most popular but now out of print guidebook. He owns Petra Rock Climbing Gym in Springfield, Missouri, (417-866-3308). Petra carries a full line of climbing gear.

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