mt hood with smith rock state park in the foreground

Ultimate Guide to Hike and Explore Smith Rock State Park

During my visit to Bend, Oregon, in 2022, I made sure to stop at the classic Smith Rock State Park. And it impressed the heck out of me. The views of the massive rock walls were stunning, and the hiking trails throughout the park could have kept me busy all day.

For anyone heading to Central Oregon, I highly recommend making a pitstop here and hitting the trails and maybe even taking a tip in the river.

I know you’ll enjoy your trip to Smith Rock State Park, and keep reading for all you need to know for your upcoming visit!

Smith Rock State Park – An Epic Climbing and Hiking Destination

first light at smith rock state park from the classic viewpoint
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Is Smith Rock State Park worth visiting?

Smith Rock State Park is a treasured location that everyone in the area should visit. It’s not very big, so you can cover all of it in a day – likely even less. You’ll love the high desert climate that offers excellent hiking, views, and an opportunity to connect with nature. 

Plus, if you hike high enough, you’ll get to see the great volcanoes to the west of the park. 

Is there a fee to visit? 

Yes, all visitors must obtain a day pass or an annual parking pass to explore Smith Rock State Park outside of Bend, Oregon. Day passes can be purchased on-site, while annual passes ($30) can be found here

low fog rising off the river in smith rock state park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The Best Things to Do at Smith Rock State Park

Even though it is small, it packs a punch for things to do in the area. 

Hiking at Smith Rock

Smith Rock State Park has a relatively small footprint, which means there are only a few hiking trails. But on those hiking trails, you can take various offshoots to increase or decrease the difficulty or length. 

A lot of the trails have Misery Ridge in them. It’s one of the focal points of the area. 

Misery Ridge and River Trail

This trail starts at the parking lot and hikes up to Misery Ridge (switchbacks) and Monkey Face. You then wrap around the backside of the rock, hiking alongside the river. 

  • 3.6 miles
  • Hard
  • 908 feet of gain (most of it in a half mile)
a balloon rises to the left of smith rock
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Misery Ridge and Summit Trail Loop

I did this for a portion of this trail and went counterclockwise. You start at the main parking lot and hike down alongside the ridge. It’s super nice. Then, you leave the state park boundary and begin hiking up the Burma Road. You’ll reach a high point with stunning views of the Oregon Cascades. 

If you want to, you can keep hiking, and you’ll be on the backside of Smith Rock State Park before getting up to Misery Ridge and then walking back down to the start. 

  • 6.2 miles
  • Hard
  • 1750 feet of gain
swithcbacks leading its way up the ridge
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Monkey Rock (Misery Ridge)

If you just want to hike up, it’s a short but steep approach to this area. 

  • 2.5 miles
  • Hard
  • 1,100 feet of gain

Crooked River Trail

The Crooked River Trail is a relatively leisurely stroll alongside the river. You’ll hike west alongside the river, bending towards the backside of the rock.

  • 4.3 miles
  • Easy
  • 320 feet of gain
gorgeous views of mt hood
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Grey Butte Trail via Burma Road 

If you’re looking for a longer hike and to get out of Smith Rock State Park, you can hike to Grey Butte. You’ll give above the area with the Butte at 5,000 feet compared to other high points being 3,500-4,000. It is a climb, but the photography opportunities here should be fantastic. 

  • 13 miles
  • Hard
  • 3,000 feet of gain

Rim Rock Trail

This is the one to do if you only want a quick, scenic walk. It also connects the two parking areas and is almost entirely flat. 

  • 1 mile 
  • Easy
  • Most flat

Take a Tour of Central Oregon

Climbing at Smith Rock State Park

Now, I’m not a climber, so I don’t have any hands-on experience. However, this is one of the better climbing locations in Oregon, and people come from hundreds of miles away to climb these rock faces. 

If you want to book a guide, you can, as many outfitters have permits to climb here. 

the trails in smith rock state park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Photography Opportunities 

Sunrise offers gorgeous photography opportunities as the early morning light illuminates the rock face. I was out here for sunrise and found myself in love with the scenery. 

As you climb higher, you’ll see views of the Oregon Cascades, including multiple volcanos. 

Fishing

If you have the appropriate licenses and gear, fishing is also allowed at Smith Rock State Park. Just make sure to check current regulations before heading out. 

views from the river in smith rock state park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Planning Your Trip

Where is Smith Rock State Park Located

Smith Rock State Park is 40 minutes north of Bend, Oregon. It’s a pretty easy drive – mainly on a highway – with the final last miles through the countryside. It’s also only about 15 minutes from Redmond and the municipal airport. 

But more high level, it is situated in Central Oregon’s high desert area. It’s a three-hour drive from Portland if there are no weather issues. 

a hiker looking out at smith rock state park at sunrise
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Places to Stay Near Smith Rock State Park

There aren’t many places to stay directly beside Smith Rock State Park, but there are plenty of options in Redmond and Bend. 

Budget Travel: LOGE Bend
Mid-Tier: Hilton Carden Inn Bend (I’ve stayed here, and it was great, right on the water and within walking distance of plenty of places.)
Luxury Stay: Tetherow Resort 

a hiker on the trail in smith rock state park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Best Time to Visit Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park is a unique spot you can visit year-round. Yes, the winter and spring can be pretty chilly, but you can still hike for the most part. That being said, spring, summer, and fall are where this place comes to life.

You’ll have superb hiking and climbing opportunities and really have a chance to explore and connect with nature on a deeper level.

I know you’ll have a phenomenal time here!

Camping at Smith Rock State Park

You are more than welcome to camp at Smith Rock State Park. It is first come, first serve and costs $8.00 per person per night. This means you cannot make reservations. The showers on-site are only for overnight guests. Furthermore, no campfires are allowed at the campground.

(Due to weather, camping is closed from November 15, 2023 to March 15, 2024.)

Lastly, you cannot sleep in your own vehicle or RV.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Visit Bend

a view of downtown Bend from the sky
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

I’ve only had one trip to Bend, Oregon (four days), but I did a ton of things and really loved it. It’s an adventurer’s dream with plenty of water and mountain activities for everyone! 

It’s home to what seems like a million breweries, and there’s something for everyone to do here! Plus, the food is pretty damn good as well. 

Activities to do in Bend
Deschutes River Horse Ride
Night Sky Private Photo Tour
Small-Group Paddle Board and Happy Hour in Cascade Lakes
Craft Brewery Tours with Complimentary Tasting Flights
Food Truck and Brewery Tour with Complimentary Tastings

Drive to Tumalo Falls and other waterfalls

aerial view of tumalo falls outside of bend oregon
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Tumalo Falls is one of the closest and best waterfalls near Bend. The parking lot is small, so you may have to park alongside the road.

It’s quite accessible, with a viewing area just 40 yards from the parking lot with no elevation gain needed. For people who want to stretch their legs, you can hike up half a mile to the top of Tumalo Falls and see the brilliance there! 

Explore a Lava Tube

This was one of those activities I could do in Bend, and I found it super cool. How often do you get to explore a Lava Tube? The tour was a half day and started around 9, and I was done by 12:30-1. 

This is only meant for people who can bend down, lay down, and crawl and who do well in tight quarters.

Book a tour for the Lava Tube

Go into the Mountains

gorgeous sunset colors of mount bachelor and three sisters
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The Central Cascades are a goldmine for hiking and backpacking. There are literally endless possibilities here. It was still too snowy for me when I visited, but I’ve got my eye on a few spots that look amazing:

  • Broken Top
  • Three Sisters
  • Sparks Lake
  • Mt. Bachelor

Newberry Volcanic National Monument

a helicopter view of newberry volcanic national monument with a massive lake below.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The Newberry Volcanic National Monument, located in central Oregon, USA, is a unique and fascinating geological site. Established in 1990, the monument covers a vast area of over 50,000 acres and is situated within the Deschutes National Forest.

It is named after the Newberry Volcano, which is a large shield volcano that has shaped the landscape with its extensive lava flows and other volcanic features.

FAQ: Smith Rock State Park in Oregon

Are Drones allowed? 

Drones are allowed at some points during the year. When I went in May, they were not allowed due to raptor nesting. In the second half of the year, you can. 

However, there’s a small loophole here. The BLM land and Smith Rock State Park share a border, and once you leave the state park, you are allowed to drone on BLM land. 

It’s up to you how you want to handle this grey zone. 

mt hood peaking out from behind the rocks
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What is Smith Rock Famous for

Smith Rock State Park, located in central Oregon, is famous for its stunning scenic views and as a premier destination for rock climbing. The park is renowned for its towering rock formations, part of the Oregon high desert plateau. These features attract climbers worldwide, offering various climbing routes for all skill levels.

In addition to rock climbing, Smith Rock State Park is known for its beautiful hiking trails and opportunities for wildlife viewing. The park’s trails provide visitors with breathtaking views of the deep river canyons and rugged landscapes. The Crooked River meanders through the park, adding to its picturesque beauty.

Smith Rock is often considered the birthplace of modern American sport climbing and has played a significant role in developing this sport. Its unique and challenging rock formations have been a testing ground for climbers for decades, contributing to its reputation and significance in the climbing community.

Moreover, the park is not just a climbing haven; it’s a natural retreat for those who enjoy the outdoors, offering a serene environment for picnicking, bird watching, and simply enjoying the natural beauty of Oregon’s high desert region.

What is the weather like? 

Bend, Oregon, experiences a high desert climate characterized by distinct seasons, each with its typical weather patterns:

Winter (December to February): 

Winters in Bend are usually cold, with average high temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to low 40s Fahrenheit (about 1 to 6 degrees Celsius). Nighttime lows often drop below freezing. Snowfall is common, and the city can accumulate significant snow, making it a popular season for winter sports enthusiasts.

views from around bend from the air
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Spring (March to May): 

Spring brings a gradual warming trend to Bend. Average high temperatures start in the mid-40s to low 50s Fahrenheit (about 7 to 11 degrees Celsius) in March and rise to the mid-60s Fahrenheit (about 18 degrees Celsius) by May.

Nighttime temperatures can still be chilly, often dipping below freezing in early spring. The season is generally characterized by a mix of rain and snow in March, transitioning to more rainy conditions as temperatures rise.

Summer (June to August): 

Summers in Bend are warm and dry. Average high temperatures are in the high 70s to mid-80s Fahrenheit (about 25 to 29 degrees Celsius). Nights are cool, with temperatures dropping to the 40s Fahrenheit (around 4 to 9 degrees Celsius). Rainfall is minimal, making summers ideal for outdoor activities.

Fall (September to November): 

Fall sees a gradual cooling from the summer heat. Average high temperatures in September are in the 70s Fahrenheit (about 21 to 26 degrees Celsius), dropping to the 50s Fahrenheit (about 10 to 15 degrees Celsius) by November. Nighttime temperatures can be pretty cool, dropping below freezing as winter approaches. Rainfall increases in late fall, and snow can start appearing by November.

Overall, Bend’s climate offers a mix of sunny, dry summers and cold, snowy winters, with transitional spring and fall seasons. This variety makes Bend a destination for various outdoor activities throughout the year.

low fog on the river in smith rock state park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Final Thoughts on Smith Rock State Park

You’re going to have a fantastic time at Smith Rock State Park. Plan to get there early, knock out a nice hike, eat lunch, and make your way back to Bend. 

Find a nice brewery here, or go to Tumalo Falls and see the natural beauty there.

In the end, you will have such a great time in Central Oregon!

Until next time adventurers, take care!

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Bio:

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside