Why Smith Rock State Park Should Be On Your Bucket List


Smith Rock may not be a national park, but this hidden gem of Central Oregon is more than bucket-list-worthy. The state park is widely known for its world-class hiking & climbing opportunities, and the views of sheer basalt and tuff cliffs are seriously larger-than-life.

Nestled in the High Desert, by the towns of Redmond and Terrebone, Smith Rock is widely considered to be the birthplace of modern sport climbing. The Crooked River snakes its way through the dramatic canyon, with hiking trails of various lengths throughout, and opportunities for both novice and experienced rock-climbers.

Aside from drawing in climbers from all over the globe, Smith Rock also has miles of scenic trails for hiking and biking. The park features 12 official trails for hikers of all skill levels – which you can see listed here. They have them divided between trails that you can take before reaching a bridge that spans the Crooked River, and routes that you can take after crossing the bridge.

Misery Ridge Trail, pictured above, is one of the more popular routes to hike after crossing the bridge. Though with a name like “Misery Ridge”, you can probably tell it’s no easy walk in the park. The 3.8-mile trail climbs to a 3,360-foot summit with sweeping views overlooking the whole canyon.

Once you reach the top, you’ll also come to the iconic Monkey Face, a massive 350-foot spire (seen above).  It gets this quirky name because when you’re looking at it from the south, the pillar looks just like the face of a monkey, with a mouth, nose and eyes.

Of course, you don’t need to hike up Misery Ridge to experience the trails at Smith Rock State Park. There are easier, shorter walks you can take leading up to the bridge with much less thigh-burning elevation. If you’re not looking to go far, try taking the Rim Rock Trail. It’s one of the easiest routes, but still gives expansive views on a short, 0.5-mile trail along the canyon ridge.

Camping is available here for tent campers (no RVs allowed). The area, known as The Bivy, is open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis. Pets are allowed too, as long as they’re kept on a leash.

smith rock

Photo by Smith Rock

If you’re not looking to stay in the park, there are several other, larger campgrounds to choose from as well. Other options include the Skull Hollow Campground (pictured above), Crooked River Ranch RV Park, and a Redmond/Central Oregon KOA.

If you’re lucky, you may also spot some wildlife across the park. Smith Rock is known to be home to several mule deer, river otter, beavers, geese & ducks along the river, as well as golden eagles & prairie falcons sometimes soaring in the sky. And hikers, beware: you’ll also want to keep on the look-out for rattlesnakes.

It’s a marvelous destination to plan a trip year-round. Some climbers prefer visiting in the winter on clear days, while other hikers like to just take the trails when it’s warmer out during the summer. No matter the season, the views of the tall, rugged cliffs are unsurpassed, and the photo opportunities across the park are seemingly endless. Here is a local website with information about the park. And if you want a good map, here is a topo map of Smith Rock State Park.

Have you been to Smith Rock before? Or is it now on your bucket list?