A Complete Guide to Smith Rock State Park Hiking

They don’t seem to be enormous from a distance. But the closer you get, the rocks at Smith Rock State Park get larger and taller. And, even when you’re standing right next to them, they tower over you. You study the terrain, marveling at the elegance of its rugged peaks and smooth color blending. This is when you understand you’re in the midst of perfection. Hiking the trails is the greatest way to discover the many aspects of this magnificent state park. And there are numerous hiking opportunities in Smith Rock State Park.

Smith Rock State Park in Oregon is one of those places that doesn’t appear to belong on your bucket list, but it should. Smith Rock is one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders for a reason. It is only a 40-minute drive from the cold city of Bend and is the ideal location for wonderful hiking trails and rock climbing.

Along with hikes, you can also enjoy Smith Rock State Park Camping. Smith Rock State Park’s Bivy area (as it’s commonly known) is a seasonal walk-in campground. Also, there are many places to stay near Smith Rock, Oregon.

Below is a summary of the Best hikes in Smith Rock State Park based on my personal experience, including which trails are best to combine. I’ve also added the distance, type of route, and difficulty level (easy, moderate, and challenging).

13 Best Hikes in Smith Rock State Park:

Here’s the lowdown on the 13 best Hikes in Oregon’s stunning Smith Rock State Park:

Most Difficult Trails: (Trails that are the steepest with Varying Terrain)

  • Misery Ridge Trail
  • Burma Road Trail
  • Chute Trail

1. Misery Ridge Trail: (Best Hike Overall)

Misery Ridge extends via Smith Rock, with several smaller routes branching out from it. . It’s also the main trail you should go if you don’t have much time.

It is, as the name implies, rather miserable, but it is an enjoyable kind of miserable if that counts for anything. Yes, there is a lot of elevation gain in a short period of time, but the sweeping sights of the park keep morale high. It’s also entertaining to watch the rock climbers up close.

Misery Ridge Trail (Best Hike Overall)

The rocky walk is eased by steps, but anyone with weak knees should bring trekking poles. The magnificent vistas of the craggy pinnacles and flowing river just keep getting better as you get closer to the summit.

Scramble along the ridge to acquire the best angle for climbers ascending Monkey Face, one of Smith Rock’s most difficult rock faces. You can also view the Crooked River twisting through the canyon from the summit.

How long is Misery Ridge Smith Rock?

If you had to pick just one walk in Smith Rock, this would be it! The Misery Ridge Trail isn’t a long trek, but its steep ascent is a challenge. The climb to the 3,360-foot summit is only 2.2 miles long, but it will make your muscles scream.

Hikers will be relieved to learn that the Misery Ridge Trail is designed specifically for them. Mountain bikes and horses are not permitted here in order to give walkers plenty of space on the track.

  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Hard

2. Burma Road Trail:

Burma Road Trail is generally regarded as a moderately difficult route, and it takes an average of 3 h 36 min to complete. Because this is a popular region for hiking, mountain biking, and trail running, you’ll almost certainly stumble into other people while exploring. The route is available all year, although the ideal months to visit are from April to September. Dogs are permitted but must be kept on a leash.

Burma Road Trail

It is used by climbers to go to the less popular climbing locations of Staender Ridge and The Marsupials. It’s also essential for mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers, and horseback riders to get access to the BLM trails that lead into Sherwood Canyon and Gray Butte. As well as those returning to the park via the Summit Trail loop.

After the bridge, turn right onto the Wolf Tree Trail and follow it around the river’s bank until you reach a fork. Then take a left on a steep scree route in the park until you reach the irrigation road on BLM land for the final struggle back into park territory.

The 3600-foot top rewards you with spectacular views in all directions. You almost forget about the nudge you gave your body to get there on this highway of scree.

  • Distance: 4.70 miles
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate (Challenging)

3. The Chute Trail:

The steep option into the park the canyon chute trail is also affectively known as “The Grunt”. From the parking area, this short route serves as the major access and exit point for most visitors to the heart of Smith Rock State Park. Though it’s the shortest walk in the park, it’s pretty steep. If you want something less strenuous, try the Canyon Trail, which is slightly longer but less steep.

The Chute Trail

Yes, it is the more difficult of the two options for getting down to the river and connecting to the trail system from the Overlook. With a guard rail in some spots and spaces to pull over and rest on the way back up, simply go at your own leisure.

Even when you see climbers running by in sandals and carrying heavy packs. They do this all the time and have mastered the art of balancing. Are your knees no longer as flexible as they once were? To disperse the burden, use trekking poles.

  • Distance: 0.1 miles
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Easiest Trails:

  • Rim Rock Trail
  • Misery Ridge and River Trail
  • Canyon Trail
  • Wolf Tree Trail
  • North Point Trail
  • Crooked River Trail

4. Rim Rock Trail:

If you don’t want to do a lot of hiking at Smith Rock State Park, this is the trail to choose. It’s not only flat the entire way, but oh those views! Rim Rock Trail has some great views. The wide, flat path runs through the middle of the park, following the rim of the rock.

Best Hikes in Smith Rock State Park - Rim Rock Trail

If you’re coming down Rope-de-Dope Trail, you’ll finish up on this trail to return to the parking lot. It’s not the most exciting trail, but the scenery keeps you busy enough that you don’t notice (or even care).

The Rim Rock Trail begins and ends at either of the two southern parking lots, and I enjoy that you can use it to descend down into Smith Rock instead of walking through the parking lot or on the pavement. It’s like a warm greeting!

It is a fantastic location for photographers to capture sunset or sunrise photographs without having to go too far in.

  • Distance: 1.0 miles
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy

5. Misery Ridge and River Trail:

Complete the Misery Ridge Trail’s uphill ascent before taking a lovely stroll to the Crooked River. When you reach the summit, you’ll be standing above stone pinnacles, surrounded by forests, grasslands, and mountains.

Misery Ridge and River Trail

As you descend, you’ll come to a stop behind Monkey Face after a series of switchbacks. Use caution on your descent because parts of the terrain might be slippery. The path eventually flattens out along the river, allowing for comfortable travel to the rest of the loop.

  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy

6. Smith Rock State Park Canyon Trail:

The Canyon Trail is an out-and-back hike with an overlook that runs parallel to the River Trail on the other side of the river. It is less exposed than the River Trail and dips between trees, providing some shade from the sun.

Smith Rock State Park Canyon Trail

This pleasant 3.3-mile trail begins at the welcome center and leads down to the river, near the Rope-de-Dope climbing area. As you descend, there are a number of viewpoint sites, with highlights being Asterisk Pass, which has a rock that resembles Woodstock from the Snoopy comics, and the Phoenix Buttress, which is another famous climbing spot.

The elevation gain is moderate but should not be a problem for experienced hikers. Crowds, on the other hand, maybe a disincentive, especially during high season. For a more serene experience, try to hike the trek early in the morning or on a weekday.

  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy

7. Wolf Tree Trail:

Again, if you want to do some quiet hiking at Smith Rock State Park, Wolf Tree Trail is the place to go. The trail follows the Crooked River from the footbridge to your right. At first, it’s a pleasant stroll with plenty of opportunities to relax by the river. As the trail continues, it begins to ascend. At first, it’s not much.

Wolf Tree Trail - Best Hikes in Smith Rock State Park

The trail then climbs steeply to reach the start of the Summit Trail. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a destination along this trail. It’s more about the journey than the destination. Depending on the season, you can come across some enormous bird nests along the ridges.

It runs along the western bank of the river and through the trees, all while a soundtrack of geese plays in the background (still unsure if their noises can be considered pleasant). There are various areas along the river where you may stop for a short picnic or simply sit and take it all in.

  • Distance: 2.0 miles
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy

8. North Point Trail:

The North Point Trail, located near the last parking lot, leads to various climbing routes. However, it’s also a pleasant hike to get a closer look at Smith Rock State Park’s northern section. And, from near the trailhead, you can see one of the park’s most iconic views. You can’t possibly overlook that.

North Point Trail

Even if you’re a seasoned hiker, this is a worthwhile excursion. It meanders along rock-lined gravel trails, providing breathtaking views of the park’s spires at every turn. It also boasts amazing views from above due to its location at the summit of the park.

As a final hurrah, I tackled this trail in the morning on my last day. I was exhausted after the previous day’s hiking excursions, but I still wanted to explore the area, especially on less difficult terrain. What I expected to be a simple and unremarkable trail turned out to be a great morning hike.

I was pleasantly delighted to find myself walking along the canyon’s rim, peering down sheer basalt rock walls to the river below and watching rock climbers disappear in search of crags.

  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy

9. Crooked River Trail:

The Crooked River Trail is a simple out-and-back hike that is nominally 3.9 miles round trip, though you can turn around at any time. Because of its ease of access, it is one of the most popular and congested routes in the park.

Crooked River Trail

It takes an average of 2 hours and 2 minutes to finish. Because this is a popular region for hiking, mountain biking, and trail running, you’ll almost certainly stumble into other people while exploring. Dogs are permitted but must be kept on a leash.

Explore a variety of landscapes, including pine forests, sagebrush, craggy valleys, and vibrant wildflowers. The trail is well-kept, however suitable footwear is recommended because parts of the uphill slopes include a lot of gravel. If you have knee problems, trekking poles are a good option.

This is one of the best Smith Rock walks for wildlife viewing, with chances of seeing otters, beavers, mule deer, geese, bald and golden eagles, rattlesnakes, and much more!

  • Distance: 3.9 miles
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy

More Difficult Trails (Trails with Moderate Terrain and some Elevation Change)

  • Homestead Trail
  • Mesa Verde Trail
  • Rope-De-Dope Trail
  • Summit Trail

10. Misery Ridge and Summit Trail Loop:

To be honest, I was short on time when it came to tackling this trail. However, if you’re looking for a trek with sights but without the crowds, this is the best hike for you at Smith Rock State Park. The trail leads to the top of a ridge that provides panoramic views of the entire park. I can only imagine how breathtaking those vistas are!

Misery Ridge and Summit Trail Loop

To get to the trailhead, you must hike the entire Wolf Tree Trail. The trail then continues its ascent to the overlook at the top of the ridge. The route then descends to the park’s backside, where it connects with both the Mesa Verde Trail and the River Trail. You’ll want to bring plenty of water with you for this one.

The loop winds around the backside of Monkey Face, and you make your descent through multiple switchbacks. You’ll hike alongside the river for a while before returning to the Misery Ridge Trail Bridge.

  • Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate (Challenging)

11. Homestead Trail:

The Homestead Trail is a great place to go if you want to get away from the throng. This trail connects the farthest parking lot to Smith Rock’s center area. The Crooked River is reached through a difficult descent. However, once there, the terrain is mostly level. There are a few rocks where you can sit and take in the sights and sounds of the running river.

Best Hikes in Smith Rock State Park - Homestead Trail

On opposite banks of the river, the Homestead and Wolf Tree Trails run parallel. They are quite comparable in terms of topography and scenery, while the Homestead Trail may be reached more easily from the northern parking lot because it links to the short North Point Trail.

It’s an excellent trail for avian enthusiasts to witness a variety of bird species. Even non-bird watchers will enjoy watching them fly from the trees and glide down the river.

  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Type of Trail: loop
  • Difficulty: Easy

12. Rope-de-Dope Trail:

When hiking at Smith Rock State Park, there’s a nice option if you’re on the Canyon Trail and don’t want to retrace your steps back up to the parking lot. Take the Rope-de-Dope Trail. The majority of the journey is uphill. The steepest stretch, though, comes near the beginning. The sights just get better and better the further you go. Even though it’s a short trail, you’ll most likely stop a few times just to take in the scenery.

Rope-de-Dope Trail

From the Rope-de-Dope climbing area, a screen trail and wooden steps lead up to the left. You emerge from behind the huge rock block that bears its name. Great canyon and river views of the entire park are available once you reach the rim.

Continue rising out of the park until you reach a fork in the road where you can turn left to take the Rim Rock Trail up the ridge, which winds around and eventually returns you to the Welcome Center.

  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

13. Mesa Verde Trail:

The.65 mile Mesa Verde Trail is a difficult connector trail. It appears from two junctions on the river trail. They meet near the summit of the Monkey Face climbing area.

Mesa Verde Trail

The first junction is just past Asterisk Pass’s backside. To get past the Mesa Verde Wall climbing area, take a right up the hill. Follow it all the way to the bottom of Monkey Face.

The second junction is reached by staying on the River Trail and turning right at the Mesa Verde/Summit Trails sign. Before reaching the base of The Monkey, the trail doubles back past the First Kiss climbing area.

Return to the River Route at the first intersection from the foot of Monkey Face, and continue on the trail until it drops to the river and returns to the bridge.

  • Distance: 0.65 miles
  • Type of Trail: One Way
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Where Is Smith Rock State Park?

The park is located in Central Oregon’s High Desert near Bend, just outside the town of Terrebonne. A fun day trip would be to begin in Bend, travel to the charming, western-themed town of Sisters, and then drive the 40 minutes to Smith Rock (or cycle there along the Three Sisters Scenic Bikeway which has views of the Cascades and winding Deschutes River).

Driving time from Portland, Hood River, or Crater Lake is just under three hours. When you arrive, make sure to get a $ 5-day pass at the parking lot near the entrance.

Does Smith Rock allow dogs?

Smith Rock State Park is dog-friendly!  While dogs must be leashed and under control at all times in Smith Rock State Park or face a $147 fine, climbers and slackliners must also bring a sitter to be with their leashed pet. You’ll get a ticket if you leave your unattended leashed dog at the base of a route or line.

What Animals are in Smith Rock State Park?

This location is adored by a variety of wild creatures and birds of prey, just as much as we are. Mule deer, river otters, beavers, and other small mammals are among the park’s biodiversity.

Prairie falcons and eagles are notable birds of prey, while rattlesnakes can be found in some regions of the park. Desert paintbrush, arrowleaf balsamroot, yellow desert daisy, and purple sage are among the native plant species.

What kind of rock is in Smith Rock?

Smith Rocks’ geology is volcanic. It is composed of layers of recent basalt flows on top of earlier Clarno ash and tuff formations. A massive caldera (Crooked River caldera) was formed approximately 30 million years ago when an overhanging rock crashed into an underground lava chamber. This resulted in a massive volume of rock and ash debris filling the caldera. Smith Rock tuff was formed when that material hardened into rock. Rhyolite flows intruded the Smith Rock Tuff along faults. Basalt lava flows from adjacent volcanoes covered the earlier tuff about a half million years ago.

What kind of rock is in Smith Rock

More recently, the Crooked River carved its way through the rock layers to form today’s geographic features. Smith Rock is a 3,200-foot (980 m)-high hill (above sea level) with a steep cliff-face overlooking a bend in the Crooked River (elevation 2600 ft), with the cliffs reaching 600 feet in height.

How was Smith Rock State Park formed?

Massive amounts of ash and debris from adjacent volcano eruptions filled the caldera and formed into the rock around 30 million years ago. Smith Rock Tuff–the greatest rock formation on the western rim–was formed, resulting in huge walls and spires up to 550 feet high.

Flows of basalt lava then poured into the area about half a million years ago from vents almost 50 miles away, forming the caldera’s cap on the tuff.

The Crooked River then carved the features seen today by carving its way through the rock layers. The Smith Rock ridgeline rises 600 feet above the river gorge below at 3200 feet. The picnic and camping spots are built on top of the rimrock, which is made up of columnar basalt.

What Native Land is Smith Rock On?

Smith Rock is the traditional home of a number of Native American tribes, including the Tenino (Warm Springs) and Northern Paiute. The Northern Paiutes referred to Smith Rock’s surroundings as the Animal Village, referring to the number and diversity of flora and animals in the area.

When Can You Climb Smith Rock?

Smith Rock State Park is a year-round climbing destination. The transitional seasons of spring and fall are the greatest times of year to climb at Smith, as it does endure dramatic temperature swings in the winter and summer. Climbing, on the other hand, can be done in the sun during the winter and in the shade during the summer.

When Can You Climb Smith Rock

  • The autumn climbing season lasts until late October to mid-November.
  • Oregonians climb all winter long when the weather cooperates.
  • Smith receives less rain than Bend. The sun heats up the front side of south-facing cliffs even when there is snow on the ground.
  • Days with a light drizzle are climbable. Smith’s welded tuff and basalt are frequently dry enough to climb within five minutes of the sun coming out.
  • However, after a rainstorm, it’s advisable not to climb on welded tuff for two days since the rain-weakened little knobs and edges can fall off. Climbing holds should not be destroyed.
  • Follow the sun and the shade. If the weather is scorching, climb early in the morning or try the west-facing, shady backside until approximately 11 a.m.

What to do at Smith Rock?

1. Rock Climbing:

When you come, one of the first things you’ll notice is that the park is packed with climbers. Hiking with a rope, shoes, and gear is common, and you’ll see them on nearly every rock face. If you’ve never attempted outdoor sports climbing, this is a wonderful place to start. There are around 2000 routes, with lots of options for all skill levels.

2. Hike a Trail:

Smith Rock has 12 official hikes for different skill levels, as we have already described above. The most famous climb is Misery Ridge Loop, which allows you to observe Monkey Face and the Crooked River from above. There is a lot of elevation gain, but the views are spectacular.

  • Rim Rock Trail
  • North Point Trail
  • River Trail
  • Wolf Tree Trail
  • Rope-de-Dope Trail
  • Canyon Trail – you use this trail to get in and out of the park
  • Mesa Verde Trail
  • Chute Trail
  • Homestead Trail
  • Misery Ridge Trail
  • Burma Road Trail

3. Horseback Ride:

Take a leisurely horseback ride along the river. Horses are only permitted on specific sections of the Canyon River, Wolf Tree, and Homestead routes, but they cover a substantial portion of the park. If you wish to go further, you can go on into the adjoining BLM land.

4. Wildlife Viewing

As popular as this park is for humans, it is also a shelter for wildlife. Look for golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, river otters, and beavers. You can also visit the welcome center to learn more about the animals.

5. Mountain Biking

Smith Rock State Park has a variety of Mountain Biking tracks. The majority of the trails are not suitable for newcomers, but because you can also cycle on riverfront trails and the road, riders of all skill levels can find a place here. The Summit Trail is the most popular mountain biking route, and if you want to add miles to your trip, you can continue on to surrounding BLM areas.

Check out these Mountain Biking Trails:

  • Canyon Trail
  • Homestead Trail
  • Summit Trail
  • River Trail
  • Wolf Tree Trail

6. Camping & Other Accommodations:

The Bivy (walk-in Bivouac area):

This campsite is located within the park. It costs $5 per person per night and there are no reservations required, although it fills up rapidly on weekends and during the summer. There are hot showers and bathrooms available, as well as a tiny charging station.

If you want to see the sunrise at Smith, this is the spot to stay. In terms of the camping experience, it may get quite busy. On a chilly, rainy day, your tent may be only a foot away from other tents, but on a lovely day, your tent may be only a foot away from other tents.

Skull Hollow Campground:

If you want to mingle around a campfire, camp at Skull, which is where we stayed. There are 28 campsites with parking pullouts around 8 miles distant. Every single site costs $10 per night (includes 1 vehicle, $5 for each additional vehicle) and may accommodate up to 6 people.

You can sleep in your car or pitch a tent, and each site has a fire pit and picnic tables. There are no running water, no running bathrooms, and only a few porta-potties.

Airbnb:

During my first trip, we slept at a nearby Airbnb that could accommodate over 20 people (not all on beds). There are numerous possibilities, but they fill up rapidly throughout the summer. Hotels can also be found in Terrebonne and Bend.

7. Kayak the Crooked River:

Paddling the Crooked River can be challenging because there isn’t always enough water to accommodate kayakers. The river is dam-controlled, and the river’s infrequent releases make planning kayaking trips difficult.

However, when the river is flowing, it is one of the most thrilling excursions in Smith Rock. During those times, you’ll be fighting other paddlers tooth and claw to get in.

The spectacular journey is highlighted by a succession of class III-IV rapids, and you’ll have the best seat to see towering cliffs, rocky spires, and screes in all directions.

Smith Rock State Park Hiking – FAQs:

What is the history of Smith Rock?
Between 1960 and 1975, the park was acquired through land purchases and contributions from the city of Redmond and Harry, and Diane Kem. Many people believe Smith Rock was named for John Smith, a Linn County lawman, or Pvt. Volk Smith was a soldier who died in the park during a battle with the Northern Paiute in 1863.
Is Smith Rock State Park worth visiting?
This beautiful region in the center of Oregon is definitely worth the trek, whether for a quick stop to look out from one of the outstanding vistas near the park’s entry or to properly explore by heading down into the canyon.
How much does it cost to go to Smith Rock?
Smith Rock State Park charges a $5 day-use fee to park all year. They are charged per vehicle, and there are three fee stations. For the days you are registered, your camping receipt also covers your car.
Is Smith Rock a difficult hike?
However, it appears to be a wonderful area to climb. Climbers of various skill levels can easily make their way to routes. Smith Rock State Park, on the other hand, is known for its more difficult spot climbing routes.
Can you see Smith Rock without hiking?
You can’t do it. The Bivy or Bivouac is a seasonal walk-in campground that operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not taken. There are no designated parking areas, and a full parking lot indicates when the “Campground Full” sign appears.
How tall is Smith Rock?
The Crooked River then carved the features seen today by cutting its way through the rock layers. At 3200 feet high, the Smith Rock ridgeline rises 600 feet above the river gorge below.
Can you swim in the river at Smith Rock?
There are some shaded areas, but there is no swimming. Hiking and rock climbing opportunities are one of the greatest here for experienced rock climbers.
How busy is Smith Rock State Park?
The park, which is located on the east side of the Cascade Mountains between Madras and Bend, attracted more than 776,000 visitors last year, including more than 23,000 overnight visits. Smith Rock is the seventh most visited full-fledged state park in Oregon.
Does Smith Rock get snow?
Climbing at Smith can be done depending on the time of year; however, there is usually snow on the ground for a portion of the year. Climbers searching for a fix will chase the sun even on days below freezing, but the park is normally quietest in the middle of winter due to chilly weather.
What mountains can you see from Smith Rock?
On clear days, you may see many of Oregon’s Cascade peaks, including Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mount Bachelor.
Can you get married at Smith Rock State Park?
Smith Rock is accessible to the public (for a $5 parking fee), so if your wedding is small enough, it’s the ideal place for an elopement or small wedding.

 

Conclusion:

One of the greatest ways to explore the wide canyon is on your own two feet, and there are a dozen of Smith Rock State Park hiking trails as we discussed above. We have mentioned some easy trails and a few that are rated more difficult. Now It’s up to you which trails you opt to do, make sure that you have plenty of water with you.

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