Commanding a spectacular view from every angle, Smith Rock State Park is one amazing gift of nature that shows its beauty generously. With its majestic rust-colored cliffs and the peaceful Crooked River that meanders around its base below, it is truly a sight to behold. Formed from a pair of volcanic activities, it is one of the top hiking sites and national parks in Oregon with numerous hiking trails to choose from.
Given its pure beauty as one of the natural wonders of Oregon, breathtaking views for days and amazing hiking trails to choose from, hiking in Smith Rock State Park is totally worth it.
Where’s Smith Rock State Park Located
Smith Rock State Park is located in the high desert of Central Oregon close to Bend. Easily one of the best state parks in the U.S, Smith Rock could be the destination for your next trip. From the moment you step foot into Smith Rock State Park, it’s one adventure after the other
Preparing for your Trip
There are three major fun activities at Smith Rock State Park: rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking. While preparing for your trip, ensure to pack appropriate clothing and gear for your chosen activity.
The most important things you’ll be needing are drinking water (about three bottles), sunscreen, sunglasses, and lunch packs as snacks. You’re likely to get hungry from all the moving about so pack adequate refreshments.
Pets are allowed in the park so you can bring your furry friend along albeit, on a leash. If you plan to stay for a couple of days, you can camp. The camping areas are visible from the park entrance. Only RVs are allowed on the campsite and charcoal or open fires aren’t allowed. Any cooking you need to do has to be done on a gas stove. If you’re only visiting for a day, you can get a day pass at the parking area and place it where it’s visible to the park ranger.
When is the Best Time to Visit
Spring or autumn is usually the best time to visit Smith Rock State Park due to the mild weather conditions during both seasons. It can get unbearably hot in summer and terribly cold in winter, both of which make for an uncomfortable experience either hiking or climbing.
During the weekends and in the peak season, parking lots get full very quickly so you might have difficulty finding parking space if you do not arrive early enough. The best time to visit is during the weekdays. There are a lot fewer people around during this time and ample parking is available.
Popular Hiking Trails in Smith Rock State Park
There are several hiking trails at Smith Rock with varying degrees of difficulty. The ones you choose to hike will depend on how adventurous you are if you’re solo hiking or going along with your whole family. Here are the top seven and why they are popular among hikers at the park.
Misery Ridge Trail
The Misery Ridge Trail is arguably the most popular in Smith Rock State Park. It’s not a long hike, just .68 miles to the top but the climb up is steep and it’s a very challenging trail. However, once at the top, the incredible views from the 3,360-foot summit are awe-inspiring. from here, you can even get a spectacular view of many rock climbers on the famous Monkey Face Rock. Nothing beats the Misery Ridge-Monkey Face view.
You’d also get an epic view of the Phoenix Buttress from the summit and snow-capped mountains in the distance. Hiking Misery Ridge is best early in the day to avoid the crowd. The best way to proceed from this point is to do the Misery Ridge Loop trail by adding the Summit Loop.
The loop is 7.3 miles long and makes for a very interesting hike. The trail starts from Misery Ridge, round to the Crooked River, Monkey Face, and the Monument (where you may see golden eagles nesting). The trail is a grueling uphill climb that will return you to the bridge at the Misery Ridge Trail.
Rim Rock Trail
This trail is a favorite among families with children in part due to the views, ease of walking and the short distance of .5 miles. The pathways are flat and paved, winding past picnic areas, a kid’s climbing wall, and benches for looking out to the beautiful scenery. It’s also close to the parking lot. Rim Rock Trail looks towards famous views of the rock cliff with the flowing river through it.
The Canyon Trail hike is probably the most relaxing after River Trail. The only difference is that it’s in the opposite direction from the River Trail. There is an elevation gain of only 100 ft and it is less crowded. One of the highlights of this 1.5 mile trail is the asterisk pass. It’s a path teeming with wildlife so you may even get to see a mule deer.
Mesa Verde Trail
Mesa Verde Trail distance is just 0.7 miles and it’s a moderate hike. It has an amazing view of the river and is located on the backside of the park.
To get to this trail, you have to take a right turn when going downhill from the chute trail. At first, it’s an easy stroll beside the river but as you progress, you’ll have done a steep climb over a set of switchbacks to get to the next trail.
The Homestead Trail is about 1 mile.
North Point Trail
The switchbacks on the homestead lead right to North Point. Right at the top of the northern point, it’s a short .5-mile loop. It is very easy to approach as it is located in the turnaround area of the parking lot. The trail is asphalt lined and from the top, there are beautiful views in all directions.
Rock Climbing Routes at Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park is one place in the world that boasts of all-year-round climbing. It’s not surprising when you consider that Smith Rock State Park is considered the origin of rock climbing in America. Whether you’re a pro looking for your next challenging climb or a beginner just getting started, there are tons of rocks to climb here.
Whether they’re mountain bikers, hikers, or even rock climbers, Smith Rock State Park in Oregon has an activity for everyone. There are more hiking and biking trails than those listed in this article, you can take the time to explore them all.
On your next hike, you can choose to hike clockwise for a different experience. A lot of people will choose easy walking along the bank of Crooked River over hiking the Misery Ridge Trail but in all, the goal is to have fun.