With so many cliff sides, rock faces, and jagged formations pockmarking the Central Oregon landscape, is it any wonder bouldering and rock climbing are popular pastimes around the region? (Unsurprisingly, U.S. sport climbing was born at Smith Rock State Park in 1986—which we’ll cover soon enough.) These days, you’ll find gyms, guides, and other resources for getting into climbing—and making the most of your time on boulders and rock faces around the region.
So if you’re around town and want to see what the local climbing scene is all about, we’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know to get started with sport climbing, traditional climbing, bouldering, and more throughout Central Oregon.
Where to Start Climbing in Central Oregon
We understand if you don’t know where to start with all the outstanding climbing resources throughout Central Oregon. So whether you’re getting acclimated to climbing or need to sharpen your skills, stop by The Circuit Bouldering Gym in Bend. Run by passionate climbers, the 20,000-square-foot gym hosts a variety of terrain—with more than 200 routes in all. (At least 25 new routes are set each Friday, so you’ll always find new challenges to tackle.) Away from the rock walls, you’ll find a full training area, yoga rooms, a children’s play area, and (since this is Bend and all) an on-site bar for post-climb refreshments.
You’ll also find plenty of guide services to help understand the basics, recommend the right gear, and (no pun intended) show you the ropes. Chockstone Climbing Guides, for instance, offers an “Intro to Rock Climbing Experience”, geared toward all ages and abilities, that breaks down the basics of rock climbing through lessons from certified instructors.
Climbing at Smith Rock State Park
No article on climbing in Central Oregon would be complete without a nod to Smith Rock State Park, just outside Terrebonne, which gave birth to sport climbing in the United States in the 1980s. Decades later, climbers from around the world descend on Smith Rock State Park to attempt some of its several thousand climbs (more than a thousand of which are bolted).
To learn more about the various climbs at Smith Rock State Park, visit SmithRock.com—a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the most popular park in Central Oregon. The site, run by a husband-and-wife team who have been climbing at the park for decades, offers information on seasonal closures, recommendations for guide services, and overviews of the park’s many climbing areas.
If you’re new to the sport and want to give it a shot, the guides at Smith Rock Climbing School have been teaching at the park since 1983—and offer clinics and guided climbs for all experience and skill levels.
And for women climbers, She Moves Mountains is a regional organization that leads small-group clinics and guided climbs at Smith Rock State Park for climbers of all experience and skill levels.
Given Smith Rock’s popularity, you’ll want to keep a few tips in mind when planning your next climb. First and foremost, Smith Rock’s parking area fills to capacity on sunny spring and summer weekends—so consider a midweek climb, or try to arrive by 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m. Be mindful of “no parking” signs along roadways and on private property, as well. And all year long, a $5 day-use fee is required—and can be paid with cash or cards at a few pay stations around the parking areas.
Climbing Routes Around Central Oregon
Smith Rock might get most of the love, but it’s far from the only climbing destination in Central Oregon. Trout Creek Climbing Area, for instance, sits just west of Trout Creek Campground (north of Madras and northeast of Warm Springs) and boasts columnar basalt that offers a few fun challenges. Just keep in mind that the climbing area is closed between January 15 and August 31 of each year to protect nesting golden eagles—making Trout Creek a great place to climb in fall.
And just southwest of Bend, along the banks of the Deschutes River, sits the Meadow Camp climbing area, which hosts a basalt cliff that ranges from 20 to 40 feet tall. You won’t find any bolts for sport climbing, but several climbs follow cracks and corners for an enjoyable, quick climb.
What to Know About Climbing in Central Oregon
Before heading out, you’ll want to keep a few tips in mind for having a safe, enjoyable experience while climbing in Central Oregon. Here are a few pointers to help you get started.
Closed routes: Occasionally, some routes might be closed to protect nearby wildlife; keep track of all current closures at SmithRock.com. (At Smith Rock State Park, for instance, certain areas may be closed or restrict access between mid-January and Aug. 1 to protect golden eagles and falcons, which nest in the area.) Please respect all signage and choose another climbing area if your desired destination is closed.
Leashed dogs: We get that your four-legged friend is the best climbing companion, and we understand the desire to let them roam off-leash—but please be mindful of rules around leashed pets on public lands.
Weather: Before heading out, check the day’s forecast. Temperatures can reach 90ºF or higher on scorching summer weekends, and wide-open rock faces offer precious little shade; along the same lines, you’ll want to watch for snow and ice in winter, when overnight lows routinely dip below freezing. Once you have a grasp of the weather, prepare for a successful climb by packing plenty of water, clothes that can be layered, and the proper gear to protect against the elements.
Trail preservation: Do your part to preserve Smith Rock State Park, save native plants, and prevent erosion by staying on already-created trails. Learn more about the importance of trail preservation at Smith Rock State Park.
And if you’re looking for other ways to get outdoors and stay active, learn more about outdoor recreation in Central Oregon.
Explore Nature’s Beauty
From the sagebrush-covered plains of the high desert to the towering pines and majestic mountain peaks, discover the diverse landscape Central Oregon has to offer.