Smith Rock State Park is a special place to many different people for many different reasons. The plentiful climbing, the access to amazing hikes, the views of the tall rock walls with the Cascades looming in the distance, or the abundant wildlife flying overhead or swimming upstream. Thousands of hikers, climbers, photographers, and natural history buffs come from all across the world to enjoy all the park has to offer. It’s one of Oregon’s seven wonders for good reason.
If you don’t know much about the area give the Smith Rock Wikipedia page a quick read to learn about the natural history, geology, and history of climbing in the area. If you haven’t already, go purchase the Allan Watts guidebook to Smith Rock climbing, it is the best Smith Rock climbing guide available and the local bible for anyone thinking of climbing at the park. Watts also recounts an interesting history of climbing development within the park, which is widely considered the birthplace of American sport climbing.
Smith Rock is a place of natural beauty that is able to support thousands of climbers and visitors each year based on excellent park management and respectful visitors. With more and more visitors coming to Smith every year it is vital that those stepping foot in the park do their part in maintaining this beautiful and peaceful place. At the bare minimum follow the Access Fund ‘Committ to the Pact’ code of conduct each time you visit the park. Peak season at Smith sees crag areas packed with large groups of climbers, hikers, photographers, four-legged friends and more. Do your best to minimize your overall impact and noise. Smith Rock is a peaceful place for many who cherish the scenic views, wildlife, and calming presence of the park.
There are two main options for camping at Smith Rock. Both get crowded in peak season and don’t take reservations.
The bivy site offers the closest option to the park and costs $5 per person each night. In or near peak season expect the campground to be full each weekend. Get there before Friday afternoon if you really want to stay at the bivy area as it is first come first serve only. The park has nice picnic table areas, bathrooms, and great views of the park in the nearby camping area. You must walk your tent into the camping area and sleep within the designated zone. See the Oregon State Parks Smith Rock FAQ for more information.
The Skull Hollow campground sits a few miles east of the park in a more remote area. There are designated camp spots that cost $5 per vehicle and are first come first serve with primitive outhouses.
Smith Rock offers up a variety of hiking trails for great views of the park and Cascade peaks.
The Misery Ridge loop is by far the most popular. Head straight up the switchbacks after crossing the main bridge entrance and follow the trail past the Red Wall until a new set of strenuous switchbacks take you to the top of Misery Ridge. Enjoy the views along the ridge before dropping back down switchbacks next to the Monkey Face before hitting the river. Turn left at the river and loop back around the Southern Tip back to the park entrance.
Below is a park map of parking areas, camping areas, trails, climbing areas and more. View a large version of the map.
There is a variety of wildlife to be discovered at Smith Rock – birds, snakes, otters, geese. Look up, look down, peak in sage brush and you are likely to see some sort of animal that call Smith Rock their home. Bald eagles and other birds of prey typically fly over head.
If you are lucky, river otters can be spotted swimming in the Crooked River together. Plenty of geese make the park their home during the warmer months. Lastly, snakes are common in the park as signs indicate upon walking into the park. Rattlesnakes are common during the warmer months but just like you always hear, they are just as scared of you as you are of them.
The high desert of central Oregon lends itself to very cold temperatures in the winter and some scorching days during the summer months. Peak climbing season is during the shoulder spring and fall months when the park is jammed with not just climbers but hikers and outdoor enthusiasts of all sorts. Regardless of the temperatures you will find climbers somewhere in the park. In the peak of winter, climbers will torture themselves in freezing temperatures on the faces that receive sun, and in the height of summer they’ll chase shade. Plan accordingly for colder than average nights regardless of the time of year.
Left your shoes and harness at home? No problem, Redpoint Climbing has you covered with a nice variety of climbing gear and accessories. If there is some climbing gear you need, they have have it for you and probably have a few options to choose from. But don’t just stop for the gear, grab a coffee on your way into the park and some beer on the way out. Friendly service and knowledge of the park if you want to talk shop.
The town of Terrebonne has a few good restaurants to check out with the likes of the Terrebonne Depot and Basecamp Pizza. The local grocery store will guarantee that you aren’t going to starve. The Sun Spot Inn has a mean biscuits and gravy.