Lake Mineral Wells State Park
Located an hour west of Fort Worth, the park offers 85 climbing routes for novice and experienced rock climbers.
By John R. Meyer
Two of the biggest obstacles to overcome in planning an outdoor adventure are distance and time. For the rock climber, Lake Mineral Wells State Park takes care of both. Located about an hour west of Fort Worth, this park offers a classroom-like setting for climbers of all skill levels. The rim of the climbing area, known as Penitentiary Hollow, overlooks Lake Mineral Wells from the east. A canyon cut into sandstone contains 85 side-by-side climbing routes with a wide range of difficulty levels. In an effort to protect the rock and its surrounding natural features, TPWD had rope anchors placed at the top of the hills. The rope anchors also protect climbers by providing more secure protection. Indirectly, the anchors also provide a reference point for locating individual routes.
What the routes lack in length, they make up for with convenience. A short walk from the parking area lies a staircase, built into the rock, that leads climbers to the bottom of the small canyon. The path to the staircase runs parallel to the top of the climbing area, allowing for walk-up accessibility to many of the anchors. (The rest require a short scramble.) Once in the bottom of the canyon, climbers may walk up to the start of virtually any one of the routes. This enables new and young climbers to have easy access to a variety of difficulties. That is one of the things Danny Andrejeski, a frequent visitor from Arlington, likes most about climbing here. “There’s a great variety of difficulties, and that gives the new climber plenty of options, but still keeps the more skilled climber busy.”
The park has a “Climb Clean” policy, which requires the use of existing anchors only — in other words, no boulder “free climbing” or anchoring to anything that could damage the existing rock or any other natural features. Top rope and a harness are musts. Before driving out to the park, be sure to call ahead to check the recent weather. The climbing area is closed for 48 hours after rain in order to protect the rock from damage. All that’s left for climbers to do is stop at the park entrance station to sign a waiver and pay the $3 per person climbing fee (in addition to the usual $5 per person park entrance fee).
On the short drive to the climbing area, you will pass near the park store as well as the beach swimming area. In warmer months, a swim is great for a post-climb cool-down. Paddleboat and canoe rentals are also available. The store stocks groceries, ice, firewood and deli items. To round out your adventure, you can check out the park’s trailway, more than 20 miles of transformed Mineral Wells and Eastern Railroad route that provide a great escape for the biker. Those in no hurry to return home can spend the night in one of the many campsites, both with and without water, or even a screened shelter.
The climbing area at Lake Mineral Wells State Park provides more than a full day of climbing. The variety and proximity of all the routes make for great accessibility. Combined with plenty of room in the campground, long or short stays satisfy climbers of all levels.
For more information, call (940) 328-1171 or visit <Lake Mineral Wells SP>.