Horseshoe Canyon and the Buffalo River

Continuing our exploration of the Ozarks (only about 6 hours from Manhattan), we visited the Buffalo River area for a weekend of rock climbing and hiking. The original plan to summit Long’s Peak was thwarted by a terrible snowstorm that left everything in Colorado buried. At the last minute we switched plans and never regretted it.

hcr map
Thursday night we drove until very late, stopping at Nemo Landing on Pomme De Terre Lake for a few hours of sleep. This park boasts some really scenic camp sites along the lake.
Friday morning we drove the rest of the way to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. This is a unique place that offers a sprawled out dispersed campground, tons of climbing routes, a zip-line, and a bunch of screaming goats wandering around aimlessly. It’s pretty hard to not like. Although it is a little unsettling to hear intermittent human-like screams in a rock climbing area. Camping costs $5 per person per night. Climbing is $5 per person per day as well. They have gear for sale and rent, but we had our own so we were good to go. We spent most of the day tackling some of the easier climbing routes (5.5 – 5.7) in the North Forty area.

This is one of the better rock climbing areas I’ve been to. If you’ve never climbed before, it looked like you can book a guide for the day through the ranch. Even better, make friends with a climber and have them teach you. Do not however attempt to climb without some formal instruction. There are lots of subtle things that you need to know about to be safe.

We camped at the ranch that night, our dinner entertainment was a little girl with an endless supply of cheesy jokes.

Saturday morning we spent time at some more climbing routes on the East Wall. After that, we went to the Steel Creek area of the Buffalo National Scenic River for a concert being held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service (this is a big deal with many celebrations across the country – learn more about it here). The band was National Park Radio whose bluegrass sounds echoed nicely off the steep walls of the canyon. To save $5 per person (and because it’s fun), we hiked about a mile into the back-country east on the Buffalo River Trail and slept there for the night.

On Sunday, we went to the Lost Valley down the road to hike a really cool nature trail. There were waterfalls, caves, and waterfalls in caves. We didn’t have the equipment to go very deep into any of the caves, but an iPhone flashlight got us a little ways in. Our final stop on the way home was the city of Springfield where Kerry went on a run while Ben and I drove around the city and walked around downtown. It seemed okay.

As we were approaching Manhattan, we were informed by the radio that there was a tornado at Milford Lake heading straight for us. We sped into town in an attempt to beat the storm. We stopped for a while at the Konza Overlook on KS-177 where there was a large gathering of storm chasers hoping to get an epic picture of a twister ripping across the prairie. We got into town just in time for some intense hail, flash flooding in the streets, and strong winds but nothing too serious. Within a couple hours things were back to normal.

Another trip to the Ozarks is inevitable since there’s a seemingly endless supply of things to explore there.

Horseshoe Canyon
Rock Climbing Horseshoe Canyon – great resource for climbing although the front desk at the store might loan you one for the day.
Buffalo National Scenic River
National Park River



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