While Smith Rock attracts a huge amount of rock climbers to the park each year, just as many visitors show up to hike the Misery Ridge Trail loop, and for good reason. The 3.8 mile loop offers up views that allow hikers to see all the far reaches of the park perched atop a ridge, and a chance to come face to face with the famous Monkey Face pillar. The trail makes for a quick day hike but is guaranteed to get your heart rate going.

Length: 4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 1000 feet

Overview

From the main parking lot, follow the many paths that converge onto the paved grade that starts at an overlook of the park where many a photo have been snapped. Walk down the paved grade until it stops and turns to dirt/gravel. At this point you have two options:

  1. Take the longer but less steep Canyon Trail, or
  2. Take the chute trail that is much shorter but steeper and usually more heavily trafficked.

Both of your options end at the same spot, which is a nice patch of lawn before heading over the main bridge to enter the park proper. This is your last chance to fill up water (Summer only) or use a bathroom at one of the two composting Phoenix toilets which are much nicer than they sound.

About to start the hike across the bridge.

After last preparations have been made, cross the bridge over the Crooked River and head up the switchbacks directly in front of you. These will get your heart rate going but you might also have views of climbers straight ahead of you on the Picnic Lunch Wall. Stay on the switchbacks to help prevent and erosion and follow the trail as it eventually trends northeast and winds you through an outcropping of boulders next to the beginning of the Red Wall. Enjoy the relatively flat respite before the trail slowly starts ramping up as you walk north.

Before long another set of steep switchbacks will start. Some have built in steps to help make the trek a bit easier. Put your head down and pump out this section because the reward isn’t far away. Once you reach the top of the Red Wall you will have panoramic views of the east side of the park while sitting perched above the park on a large slab of rock.

After a few mandatory photos, follow the trail west along a flat section of trail through sage brush and other plants. This section of trail sits on the top of the park and takes you to a face-to-face view of the Monkey Face, which gets its name for obvious reasons. If you’re lucky you’ll see a party of climbers or even a slack line tied up. You will also have panoramic views of the Cascades stretching from Mount Bachelor (south) all the way to Mt. Hood on clear days. From here the trail descends down towards the west side of the park as quickly as it charged up from the east.

A climber atop the Monkey Face pillar.

Follow the switchbacks down as they lead directly past the Monkey Face pillar. As you walk beside the pillar you get a sense for how large it actually is. Keep following the trail south (hikers left) as you eventually drop all the way down next to the Crooked River. From here the trail goes all the way around the southern tip of the park before backtracking north and east towards the starting point of the bridge. It is in this section of the trail that you will see the largest concentration of climbers in the park as they ascend the walls of the Phoenix Buttress, Smith Rock Group, Christian Brothers, and Morning Glory Wall.

Enjoy the flat trail that meanders next to the Crooked River because before long you will be having to hike back out of the park the way you came in. Either way you do it, it will be uphill and the chute trail is usually one little ass kicker of climb out before reaching the parking lot.

This is a great hike and offers up spectacular sunset views among all the other highlights already mentioned.

The general route of the Misery Ridge Trail

Map

The Misery Ridge Trail Loop is highlighted in yellow on the map below



View a large version of the map.