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Central Oregon Day Trip: Smith Rock State Park

Part 1 of a 3-Part “Day Trip” series from Connor Henzel, a recent University of Oregon graduate.


Outside of Redmond is a monolith of welded volcanic ash on the rim of an ancient caldera.

World famous for rock climbing, Smith Rock is a gem of our High Desert.

The Crooked river is partially responsible for carving the 600 foot cliffs of the park. A walk along the river trail is prime for viewing the native wildlife of this riparian habitat and seeing the rock from below.

99% of this bird’s diet is fish. It can spot them in water from 30 to 130 feet above the surface and then plunge for the kill. In hunting they are assisted by a set of razor sharp talons and spicules on their feet for gripping fish.

One of the most difficult trails in the park, Misery Ridge climbs up steep switch backs and stairs to the top of Smith Rock.

There are a variety of paths to take once you’ve reached the summit, providing views of Central Oregon, the cascade volcanoes, and Monkey Face ­a free standing pillar popular with climbers.

Your presence in nature has an effect, this park is feeling the pressure of increased attendance. Consider these guidelines while hiking to minimize your impact.

  • Stick to the paths, walking compresses soils and kills plants .
  • Yield to others on the trail and leave the speakers and music behind.
  • Stay out of sensitive areas for the sake of habitat and wildlife.
  • Leave plants and animals as you found them, and respect their space.
  • Pick up your trash and trash you find.

Want to see more? Check out Connor’s “Day Trip” videos on Lava Lands and the High Desert.

Connor Henzel
Connor Henzel
Connor Henzel is a recent graduate in environmental science, with a background in the digital arts. His projects (like the nature travel series “Day Trip!”), often combine these two fields. Studying abroad in the Galapagos Islands helped to spur an interest in the intersection between outdoor tourism and environmental issues. Hiking, camping, and kayaking across Central Oregon are some of his favorite outdoor activities. Connor called Redmond home for eight years before moving to Eugene for his degree.