If you are planning a trip to Central Oregon, there is a HIGH chance that Smith Rock State Park is on your list of things to do in Bend in summer.
From climbing to hiking, photography to wildlife viewing, there is honestly beauty around every corner here!
Berty and I have visited countless times (our most recent visit being in summer 2022) and seen Smith Rock in all seasons.
Here is everything you need to know to plan your next epic trip to Smith Rock State Park, (including how to take incredible photos too.)
- How to Get To Smith Rock State Park
- Where to Stay Near Smith Rock
- How Did Smith Rock Form?
- Tips For Visiting Smith Rock State Park
- What To Pack For Smith Rock Hiking
- What To Do at Smith Rock State Park
- Climbing Routes at Smith Rock State Park
- Smith Rock State Park Hikes
- Other Things To Do At Smith Rock State Park
- FAQs About Smith Rock State Park
- What else is there to do near Smith Rock?
- More Oregon Adventures
How to Get To Smith Rock State Park
So, where is Smith Rock State Park?
Smith Rock is often spoken in the same sentence as “Bend, Oregon.” Despite the undeniable connection, Smith Rock is actually located closer to Terrebonne, Oregon, about a 20-30 minute drive from downtown Bend.
It’s part of Central Oregon’s High Desert region, known for its arid climate, juniper bushes, and red rock.
Common Driving Distances to Smith Rock:
- Bend to Smith Rock: 26 miles / 45-minute drive
- Portland to Smith Rock: 140 miles / 3-hour drive
- Seattle, WA to Smith Rock: 340 miles / 6-hour drive
- Hood River to Smith Rock: 125 miles / 2.5-hour drive
Pro Tip: If you were planning things to do in the Columbia River Gorge, you could tack on a day trip to Smith Rock State Park too.
Where to Stay Near Smith Rock
There are awesome vacation rentals and hotels near Smith Rock, here are our picks:
($$$) FivePine Lodge: A boutique, eco-friendly resort in Sisters, Oregon. Perfect for a romantic getaway in Oregon!
($$) SCP Redmond: Classy, updated brick building in the heart of Redmond. Close to the airport and easy to reach Smith Rock.
($) VRBO – Update Home w/ Large Kitchen & Mountain Views: Simple, no-fuss vacation home with updated amenities and room for the whole family. Sleeps 8.
($-$$) Crooked River Ranch Cabins. Located in Terrebonne, OR, these are cozy cabins around Smith Rock are very convenient.
If you’re looking to maximize your time outside, there are plenty of campgrounds near Smith Rock State Park.
- Crooked River Ranch RV Park: Can host both tents + RVs. Reserve sites here.
- Smith Rock Bivouac Area “The Bivy”: A walk-in seasonal campground right in the park. No fires, no RVs, tent-only. It’s a simple setup, but the closest you can get!
- Skull Hollow Campground: Can accommodate bigger vehicles, but no running water and pit toilets only.
- Haystack Reservoir Campground:
- Cove Palisades State Park:
TIP: We like to filter campgrounds by amenities and features using The Dyrt. The pro version also works offline so you can browse when you’re out of service too. Click here to try it free for 30 days!
How Did Smith Rock Form?
Smith Rock is the result of two volcanic events in central Oregon.
The first blew a half-mile thick layer of ash all around the area, which solidified into what we now call the Smith Rock tuff. Erosion from the wild and water revealed the spectacular spires we see today.
The second volcanic event sent basalt flowing, which altered the shape of Crooked River and pushed it up to the base of Smith Rock.
This park actually reminds us a lot of Zion National Park – especially Angel’s Landing Trail!
What’s Nearby Smith Rock?
Trying to plan a larger trip to Central or Eastern Oregon? Here are some other places nearby we suggest visiting!
- Skylight Cave (near Sisters)
- Bend, Oregon
- Chush Falls Trail
- Sisters, Oregon
- Marion & Gatch Falls
- The Painted Hills
- Sahalie and Koosah Falls
- Lava River Cave
- Tumalo Falls
Tips For Visiting Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock is open from sunrise to sunset. This changes throughout the year, so check the sunrise/sunset times for your visit.
Smith Rock State Park is an extremely popular place to visit, especially in the summer season, from May-October.
Typically, June and July are the hottest months to visit, with afternoon temps being in the 90s. November through February are the coldest, with average temps between 20-50 degrees.
If possible, try to visit during the weekday, or early in the morning to avoid the worst of the crowds.
Upon arrival, you’ll have to purchase a $5 day pass. Kiosks are all over the parking lot at the entrance and they are easy to spot. Put the pass on your car’s dashboard.
Bring a plant book!
Here, you will find an abundance of wildflowers and native plants to Central Oregon. Some of the most common places are pine trees, sagebrush, and juniper. Click here for an Oregon Shrub Guide online, or you can download the Oregon Wildflowers app.
Visiting Smith Rock in Winter
It’s possible to visit Smith Rock State Park in the winter season! This time of year doesn’t provide full access to the activities in the park, but it does bring its own unique experience, especially for photography.
Come bundled up! The desert air is cold and dry here, as cold as 20 degrees in peak winter months.
What To Pack For Smith Rock Hiking
Hiking at Smith Rock State Park is one of the most popular and abundant activities available.
Unlike other popular Pacific Northwest hiking trails, Smith Rock is a much drier, much hotter area.
Because of its desert-like landscape, here’s what you need to pack:
- WATER: Heat exhaustion is one of the most common ailments in the park. Bring more than you need.
- Sunscreen: This is an essential item, you WILL get sunburnt here without it! [Buy our favorite sunscreen]
- Sunglasses: It’s bright here, with little shade. Protect your eyes! [Buy sunglasses]
- First-Aid Kit: Pack one so you can be prepared for anything. [Buy this portable one]
- Day Pack: To carry all your PNW hiking essentials, choose a high-quality day pack. [Buy our favorite hiking backpack]
- Sweat-wicking clothes: Cotton holds sweat on your skin while synthetic and wool fabrics wick it away from your body. [Buy sweat-wicking hiking layers]
- Hiking Boots/Hiking Shoes: Choose a sturdy pair for this rocky and uneven terrain. Discover the best hiking boots for the Pacific Northwest.
- Sweat-wicking socks: Honestly, the right socks change everything. [These ones are perfect for blister-free hikes]
- Lip balm: The air is much drier here than in other parts of the PNW. [Buy chapstick]
- Snacks: Choose a mix of hiking snacks like nuts, fruit, and proteins (peanut butter) for well-rounded energy.
- Camera: One of the easiest travel cameras out there is the Canon Powershot! [See our full travel photography gear list]
- Tripod: If you’re a photographer, consider bringing a travel tripod like this one.
What To Do at Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock was built for outdoor enthusiasts.
From mountain biking, trail running, hiking, climbing, and even slacklining, there is an abundance of things to do at Smith Rock! Here are some of the most popular things to do:
Climbing Routes at Smith Rock State Park
One of the most popular activities at Smith Rock State Park is rock climbing. Smith Rock is often referred to as the birthplace of U.S. sport climbing!
It’s one of the reasons why it receives record visitation in the summertime – there’s a crag for climbers of all skill levels.
Smith Rock has over 1500 climbing routes to choose from, but there are somewhere around 50 that are deemed classics that every climber should try. People have been climbing these basalt columns since the 1980s (or at least that’s when they became popular in modern culture.)
Some of the most popular climbing areas include Monkey Face, Monument Area, Red Wall Area, and The Gorge Area.
Note: We aren’t climbers ourselves, so if you are serious about climbing, we suggest supplementing this blog post with other, niche-er resources. Here is an overview of the Smith Rock cliffs you should check out if you are into this sort of thing:
Smith Rock State Park Climbing for Beginners
- Rope De Dope Block: a great place for top-rope climbing opportunities.
- Main Smith Rock Group. Great for climbers on their first leads. The Northwest Face has some 5.5s.
- Morning Glory Wall. Coming with more experienced climbers? Try the Five Gallon Buckets.
Don’t have your own gear? There are nearly 300 bouldering lines for those who prefer to stay closer to the ground.
Intermediate and Advanced Climbing at Smith Rock
Really you could go anywhere in the park, and there will be a route for you to climb. However, make sure to hit these popular ones before your time at Smith Rock is over.
- Pure Palm
- Nine Gallon Buckets
- Screaming Yellow Zonkers
Difficult and Challenging Climbs
Smith Rock is actually known for its difficult climbs and challenging routes.
FYI: The climbing culture here was established by some very talented climbers, so you’ll likely see some discrepancies in climbing grades.
Here are some advanced climbing routes you should aspire to:
- Morning Glory Wall: Magic Light and Churning the Wake are challenging routes here.
- Monkey Face: Spank The Monkey and The Backbone and the Just Do It (5.14c) are some of the hardest routes.
- The Dihedrals: Heinous Cling and Chain Reaction are ones to aspire to here.
Smith Rock State Park Hikes
One of our absolute favorite ways to visit Smith Rock State Park is by heading through the gorgeous canyon on foot!
There is an abundance of Smith Rock State Park hiking trails to choose from, ranging in all skill levels. Many of these trails interlink with one another, and they span 650 acres of ancient lava flowers, arid landscape, and scenic vistas.
Here are some of the best hikes in Smith Rock State Park:
Rim Rock Trail (0.5 miles, paved)
Circling the ridge of the park, you get some of the best views of the park from all different angles!
The Rim Rock Trail is a great choice for families with young kids. Along the route, there are picnic areas, a kid’s climbing wall, and benches.
Misery Ridge (1ish-3.7 miles, depending on your route)
Misery Ridge Trail is infamous for being one of the most challenging hikes in Smith Rock State Park. Many trails connect to this one, making it really versatile and customizable.
It’s a tough climb, gaining roughly 1,000 feet in about a mile. It’s a short hike, but very steep. We suggest using hiking poles to help with stability and assistance.
Once at the top, you will enjoy panoramic views from 3,360 feet, including the famous Phoenix Buttress! You can even wave hi to Mount Hood from the top too.
Canyon Trail (1.5 miles)
Starting at the welcome center, this trail leads you down to the river. You’ll pass several rock climbing areas, including Phoenix Buttress and Rope de Dope.
Crooked River Trail (3.9 miles)
To beat the heat, you can follow the winding path of the Crooked River trail right at the water’s edge.
Come early in the morning to spot the resident wildlife like golden eagles, mule deer, river otters, beavers, rattlesnakes, and geese!
Wolf Tree Trail (1.2 miles)
Wolf Tree Trail is not quite as popular as other trails in Smith Rock State Park, so it’s a great choice if you want some solitude.
Summit Loop (7.3 miles)
If you want a trail that takes you to the best of the best at Smith Rock, The Summit Trail Loop is your route. Along the way, you’ll experience Misery Ridge, and see spots like the Crooked Rover, the Monument, and Monkey Face.
Homestead Trail (0.7 miles)
As you make your way down The Chute, follow signs to the right for the Homestead Trail. Here, you’ll wind along the river on a casual walk, until you hit steeper switchbacks in the first of the North Point Trail.
Smith Rock Hiking Map
Before visiting Smith Rock, you can click here to download a park map. this way, you can pull out your phone to locate yourself at any given time!
Other Things To Do At Smith Rock State Park
Hiking and climbing are by far the most popular and common things to do at Smith Rock State Park.
However, there is a plethora of other activities to do! Here are some other popular sports to try at Smith Rock:
Book Smith Rock Tours
Curious about trying out some sports but don’t have the right gear? Book a tour to Smith Rock!
There are plenty of tours that can pick you up (and drop you off) from your hotel, or meet at a central location in Bend.
Don’t let the lack of equipment or skill deter you from visiting Smith Rock State Park!
Depending on the trail you choose, horseback riding is permitted! Parts of the Homestead, River, Canyon, and Wolf Tree trails are available for horseback rides.
Go Mountain Biking
Mountain Biking at Smith Rock is a perfect recipe for an adrenaline-inducing afternoon. The park is full of steep climbs, dizzying drop-offs, and rocky terrain. Some of these places are too remote for the average hikers, so bikers are rewarded with some pretty stellar views of the canyon, without the crowds.
- Smith Rock Loop (7.9 miles): This one-way loop circles the canyon walls, giving incredible vantage points around every turn.
- The Canyon Trail (1.5 miles): This easy single-track trail rides through the main part of the park, from the bridge over Crooked River.
Where to rent bikes?
Go Kayaking Down The Crooked River
Most of the year, the Crooked River is too low for kayakers to paddle. However, in the springtime when water levels are much higher, kayakers flock to the river to meander around Smith Rock, and take on some rapids!
Smith Rock Photography Opportunities
Smith Rock State Park is easily one of the best Oregon photography locations.
Smith Rock Photography Tips:
- Some of the best vantage points can surprisingly be found near the parking lot! No hard work is required here – you can easily walk the dusty trails near the parking lot to find quite the handful of beautiful vantage points.
- Smith Rock has been used for Hollywood movie filming locations. Most notably for Homeward Bound and Reese Witherspoon’s movie Wild.
- Consider packing an ND filter. Oftentimes, you’re shooting in full sun, and a filter can help preserve some of that sky color and exposure.
- Prepare to be with a crowd! This is an incredibly popular spot to capture Oregon photography, so prepare to share the area with other photographers.
- From January 15 – August 1st, Drone are prohibited. This is to protect the resident golden eagles, falcons, mule deer, river otters, and beavers’ nesting areas.
- For commercial photography (think weddings, engagement shoots, film projects and other large-equipment projects) a permit is required. Call 541-548-7501 to see if you need a permit.
Here are some of the best spots to photograph in Smith Rock State Park:
Rim Rock Trail (The Long View): This is the most iconic image of Smith Rock, with the towering cliffs in the background and the winding river in the foreground. It’s best photographed during sunset. Any lens will work, but the wider the lens, the more you can capture in-frame.
Rim Rock Trail (Southwest Corner): This rock formation towers 2,700 feet tall and captures the first morning sunlight. Walk along the rim 0.5 miles from the Welcome Center to reach this flat, paved area.
FAQs About Smith Rock State Park
Can you hike solo at Smith Rock State Park?
Smith Rock is considered a safe, family-friendly state park. It’s pretty difficult to get lost, as the trails are very clear and straightforward to follow.
There are plenty of people around, so there aren’t a lot of chances to get lost or get secluded in a place that’s uncomfortable.
When is the Best Time to Visit Smith Rock State Park?
Smith Rock is available to visit year-round, but the best times to visit are in the fall and spring seasons.
There is little shade cover in the park, so it can get incredibly hot on roasting summer days.
If you do go in the summer, try visiting closer to sunrise or sunset, when the sun is lower in the horizon (aka less hot and more shade!)
How Long Do You Need to Explore Smith Rock?
You can easily plan a trip to visit Smith Rock in one day. It’s not a huge park, so there isn’t a ton of actually ground to cover. You can try hiking, mountain biking, and climbing all in one day!
Here’s an example of a Smith Rock State Park 1-Day Itinerary:
- Morning: Hike Misery Ridge and the River Trail
- Afternoon: Climbing the crags + having lunch
- Mid-Afternoon: Taking mountain bike trail
- Evening: Photographing sunset at the Rim Trail
What’s the History of Smith Rock State Park?
Smith Rock is commonly believed to be named after John Smith, a Linn country lawmaker who died battling the Northern Paiute in 1863. It was obtained by purchase and gifts of land from Redmond city and the Kems family.
Honestly, we don’t know how to feel about another park being named after a white guy who wasn’t actually from there, while dismissing the indigenous communities – in this case, the Northern Paiute People.
We’ve seen in recent years parks around the US changing names that have caused harm to minority groups, and we wonder if this will be a contender for a name change in the future?
What’s the Wildlife at Smith Rock?
There are several native wildlife in their habitats at Smith Rocks. Most commonly cited are golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, river otters, and beavers. They are most active in the mornings and evenings.
Are Pets Allowed at Smith Rock State Park?
Yes, pets are allowed at Smith Rock. They need to be on a leash at all times and stick to the marked trails.
What else is there to do near Smith Rock?
You may be asking yourself, what is there to do near Smith Rock State Park? There’s a ton of things actually, and here are some of our favorite adventures to add to your Bend, Oregon itinerary:
The Skylight Cave: If you arrive at this cave during the right time, you’ll see three beams of light coming through the cave!
Lava River Cave: a 1-mile lava tube that you can explore in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument Area.
Tumalo Falls: One of the most iconic waterfalls near Bend, Tumalo Falls is a must-see!
We hope you enjoyed our guide to Smith Rock State Park! Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!