Central Oregon is home to dozens of beautiful hiking trails, miles and miles of singletrack mountain bike trails, more than 2 dozen golf courses and picturesque high alpine lakes. But it’s most photographed and most visited natural attraction might just be Smith Rock State Park.
If you’re a rock climber, Smith Rock State Park is probably already on your bucket list. People come from all over the world to take on “Monkey Face” — a 350-ft high pillar that’s an absolute hotspot for climbers.
But even if you never plan on shouting, ‘belay on!’ you’ve gotta get here. It’s one of those places where you so badly want to put your phone away and just connect with mother nature, but honestly you won’t be able to…words don’t do the park justice. Everywhere you look someone will be clicking — capturing their Smith Rock moment.
The park is just 26 miles north of Bend, outside a teeny town called Terrebonne. (Pro tip: grab a bite at Terrebonne Depot, one of the region’s best kept secrets.) When you get here you’ll be tempted to try and find a parking spot close to the trailhead. But remember, you’re here to hike! Do yourself a favor and just head straight to overflow parking, I promise it’ll save you a headache. After you buy a $5.00 day pass from one of the yellow machines (the one in the campground and overflow parking lot take debit cards) you’re good to go.
Alright, so here’s what you need to know about the hike to the top of Smith Rock. Misery Ridge is the first trail you’ll see after you cross the footbridge over the Crooked River. If you’re a seasoned hiker, you’ll be fine trekking up this trail. But for us normal folk, Misery Ridge can be a little…well, miserable.
If you have little kids or you’re hiking with an elderly person, you may want to stick to the trail that runs along the river (go left off of the footbridge). You’ll still have spectacular views, it’s just a little less of a commitment. If you really want to charge up Misery Ridge, toddler in tow, I suggest stopping frequently as the 1000-ft change in elevation can really take it out of you and there are no shortcuts back to the car.
That’s not the fun stuff to read about, but it’s nice to know what you’re getting into.
No matter what trail you take at Smith Rock, you’ll leave with a new appreciation of how awe-inducing the river, rocks and plants can be. It doesn’t have to be a blue-bird day either, ominous clouds only highlight bright green lichen covering the massive rock walls. But if you are lucky enough to get to the top on a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the Cascades. By the time you get back to your car, you’ll be the best kind of tired and have memories that will keep you coming back for more.