They call it a climber’s paradise, but it’s also pretty good for climbing spectators. The moment you enter Smith Rock State Park, you spot athletes studding the rock face like kitted out lizards. There are over 1,800 climbing routes in the park. We didn’t take any of them. And that’s OK!
Smith Rock is in the small community of Terrebonne, Oregon, 26 miles north of Bend. There’s a very tidy, contained feeling about the place, as if the design and placement were planned, like the Colosseum or a Six Flags. But it’s simply a natural wonder, the remains of an ancient volcanic crater etched through by the narrow Crooked River. The majority of the rock spires are porous tuff formations. Their tan tones stand out against the blue sky and green scrub.
There’s ample parking outside of Smith Rock, with a day use fee of $5 per vehicle. Once you park your car, you can visit the tiny info center and grab a map, or not. It’s nearly impossible to get lost, but it’s nice to see where the 12 official hiking trails are, their difficulty levels, and where they intersect. Depending on where you go, you can treat yourself to sweeping vistas or enjoy the company of the river.
The most challenging trail is suitably called Misery Ridge. Though really it’s kind of fun, just steep at times. There are wooden steps in some places along the 3.7 mile loop, but not all. In general it’s a good idea to wear good hiking shoes. At one of the viewpoints you can see the iconic rock known as Monkey Face. Atop a tall spire, it indeed resembles a simian head with big ears and a grin. It’s another great place to watch climbers show off their skills.
In addition to climbing and hiking, visitors to the park can mountain bike on several trails. Trail running is also a popular pastime. Just beyond the park is BLM territory for those who want to add even more miles. Also, those into slacklining and horseback riding are not out of place in the park. There really is something for everyone.
Wildlife is plentiful. Expect to see otters and beavers as well as all types of birds, including swifts, falcons and golden eagles. Watch out for the occasional rattle snake. You can bring dogs with you, as long as they stay on leash.
If you’re interested in camping, there’s a tent-only campground along the park’s main access road. There’s also a nearby BLM campground called Skull Hollow. There’s nowhere in the park to buy food, so come prepared. Once you’re inside, you’ll want to hang out all day.