State Parks

Best Places to Hike in Oregon: Smith Rock State Park

The 6:00 a.m. alarm clock blares off and your body jolts forward wondering why you set an alarm for a Saturday. You abruptly awaken from your dream of Channing Tatum and snap into reality, remembering today is the day you planned to road trip to the much talked about Central Oregon town of Terrebonne.

With eyes barely open and those crusties buried into the corners, you manage to pack up your clothes and gather your camping supplies, while also brewing up the much-needed morning coffee. With thermos in hand and a sleeping bag in the other, you finish your last trip of packing up the car and you are off on your adventure.

Misery Ridge Trail

The scenery is classic Oregon: gray skies, constant mini battles between sprinkling rain and finding the right window-wiper speed, and tall Douglas Firs navigating you down the highway toward Mt. Hood. Upon crossing Mt. Hood an entirely different landscape meets your eyes. The Douglas Firs are soon replaced with high-desert terrain and you feel as though you aren’t in the Oregon you’ve grown to know.

As you near closer to Smith Rock, in the distance you see faint mountain views of Three Sisters and Three-Fingered Jack, and in the rear-view mirror sits Mt. Hood’s reflection. Your head’s on a swivel, not wanting to miss the prestine views.

You’ve finally reached your destination, and wow it’s stunning! As you pull through with your Iowa license plates you realize the place is packed with hikers, rock climbers, slack-line dare-devils and a kid with a cheeseburger back-pack (I thought this was worth mentioning because it was a back-pack with a cheeseburger on it?). People have come near and far to visit this state park handcrafted by mother nature roughly 30 million years ago.

It’s only about 11:00 a.m. now. Pay for the permit, park the car, grab your backpack and water-bottle and it’s off to hit the trails. After just a brief walk down from the parking lot you meet two trail heads: Canyon Trail and Misery Ridge. It’s Misery Ridge for me.

Slacklining Toward Monkey Face

Misery Ridge:

The incline is pretty painful, hence the name Misery Ridge, but to summit it’s only .68 miles. That is if you hang a right at the beginning of the trail head rather than going left. After a series of hellish switchbacks you instantly meet up with rock climbers on Picnic Lunch Wall. This is the perfect time/excuse to watch the climbers and catch your breath before the latter half of the hike begins.

Continuing up, sweat and small amounts of cursing will lead you pass Ship Rock and The Red Wall. Soon after, you finally reach the summit overlooking beautiful views of Crooked River and hikers attempting the climb. If you continue on for another .3 miles you  reach Monkey Face, an icon of the park. Here you may get the opportunity to watch slack-liners cross the towering 350 foot rock formation. It makes you feel as if the Misery Ridge trail really wasn’t all that difficult when you watch these balancing acts.

From this point, several trails veer off in their own equally unique directions. If you want a scenic route along the river, continue .3 miles down First Kiss trail and you will soon meet up with River Trail. I would consider this to be a family-friendly trail as it is perfect for a leisurely stroll with good conversation. River Trail covers most of the park as it is 2.5 miles of flat terrain. For more information on these trails click here.

Additional Suggested Trails:

Canyon to Rim Loop – 3.4 Miles Round Trip

Homestead to North Point Loop – 1.8 Miles Round Trip

Reverse Misery Trail – 3.7 Miles Round Trip

Wolf Tree to Burma – 2.8 Miles Total, There and Back

What You Should Know:

  1. Dress Appropriately – Wear layers and good shoes with traction for walking down scree (loose rock) slopes.
  2. Bring Water – 16 oz per person per hour of exertion. There is one water fountain at the bridge in the park.
  3. Stay on Marked Trails – Prevent erosion and confusion for the next hikers.

Park Information:

Overnight Stays   A walk-in bivouac camping area with a common area for cooking and picnic tables, as well as sinks and showers. $8/person and can purchase up to 14 nights. Takes credit card payment.

Permit Fee   $5 all day (this is included in $8 camping fee).

Brochure/Map Overview











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