How to explore Smith Rock State Park in Oregon

Smith Rock State Park in Oregon is renowned for its impressive rock formations with plenty of outdoor activities. Numerous hiking trails weave through the landscape with scenic views of deep river canyons and towering rock spires making it one of the best ways to explore the park. Smith Rock State Park is named one of the Wonders of Oregon and a must-visit for outdoor lovers. One day is enough to explore the hiking trails in the park. But if you want to go rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking, you might need a day or two. Find everything you need to know in our complete guide before visiting Smith Rock State Park in Oregon. From the best hiking trail in Smith Rock, the best time to visit and much more. 

About Smith Rock State Park Oregon

Smith Rock State Park is located in central Oregon’s high desert near the towns of Bend, Redmond and Terrebonne. The eye-catchers of the park are the picturesque rock formations and volcanic cliff walls while the meandering Crooked River carves through the landscape, leaving a beautiful canyon. It is a completely different side of Oregon state compared to the lush forests with thundering waterfalls and rugged beaches. 

It is not without reason that this park is named one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon. The towering basalt cliffs provide an outdoor playground for rock climbers. And the easy access to all hiking trails is the perfect way to explore the stunning rock formations from different perspectives. 

With plenty of different hiking trails for all levels, Smith Rock State Park is a great family-friendly Oregon State Park to visit. 


Getting to Smith Rock State Park

  • Distance from Bend: 30 minutes drive
  • Distance from Portland: 3-hour drive
  • Distance from Seattle: 5-hour drive

Set your navigation system on Smith Rock Parking and you’ll get to the large parking lot of the park. There is plenty of parking space divided into different parking areas along the rim of the park. However, the parking close to the welcome center gives immediate access to most of the hiking trails.

Smith Rock State Park Entrance Fee

  • Buy a $5 day pass at the fee station machines. All park users of Smith Rock State Park must buy a $ 5-day pass. You can find self-serve fee station machines at various locations in the parking lot. Only credit cards are accepted. 
  • America the Beautiful Park Pass is NOT accepted because this is State Park. The Park Manager will check cars throughout the day, so make sure to put your Day Pass ticket clearly on the dashboard. Don’t bring it with you when exploring the park. You can always go inside the Visitor Center for further questions.  

Smith Rock State Park is a day use area so the opening times are from dawn to dusk.

Things to do in Smith Rock State Park Oregon

Smith Rock State Park offers a variety of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. The most popular activities are hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, photography and wildlife watching. 

Smith Rock State Park hikes

Smith Rock has 16 official hiking trails to explore spanning over 650 acres of land. But you can merge multiple trails to see all the best perspectives of this huge park. For the most diverse trail with the best views, go for the Misery Ridge Loop trail including the River trail. For a shorter hike, opt for the Rim Rock Trail, Canyon Trail and River Trail. Here is an overview of the best hikes in Smith Rock State Park.

Misery Ridge Trail 

Don’t let the name scare you off because the Misery Ridge trail is the most popular option to explore Smith Rock State Park. It turned out to be also our favourite hike in the park combining the best ridge views, river views and major rock faces. There are a few different options to hike the Misery Ridge trail, combined with other trails, or as an out-and-back route. Which option you choose depends on the amount of time you have and the length, including elevation gain of the hike, you prefer. 

Stunning views at Misery Ridge viewpoint
Option 1: Misery Ridge Loop and River Trail

Length: 3.6 miles / 5.8 km

Elevation gain: 908 ft / 277 m or 1138 ft / 347 m depending on doing the trail clockwise or anti-clockwise

Difficulty: Moderate 

The Misery Ridge Loop trail provides the best and most diverse views in Smith Rock State Park. You can do this hike clockwise or anti-clockwise, with clockwise being the easier version. The clockwise version starts, just like many other trails along the Canyon trail or the steep Chute trail. It doesn’t matter which one you pick because the end of the trail is for both the same, getting you back to the footbridge.

The bridge crossing

Here you continue on flat terrain along the River Trail that provides excellent views of the major rock faces. You might share this trail with mountain bikers and horseback riders, so keep an eye out. You will follow the river with stunning views on the rock spires until you start climbing up along the Monkey Face rock formation. Then you will get to several stunning viewpoints on the large, rocky plateau. This is a great area for some photo stops or a lunch break. After this, you will make your way down along the Misery Ridge trail and over the foot bridge back to the car park. 

Stunning views along the River Trail

The anti-clockwise version is a steep hike up along switchbacks which will get you quicker at the highest viewpoint on Misery Ridge. This is a great spot for a quick break before hiking back down along the Mesa Verde trail where you can spot the Monkey Face Rock. The trail then continues along the river while passing several rock-climbing sites. Trekking poles are recommended on the steeper descents because of the loose gravel. This was our favorite hike in Smith Rock State Park providing the best views of all the impressive rock formations. 

Steep switchbacks going up the Misery Ridge
Hiking along Monkey Face Rock
Option 2: Misery Ridge Trail out and back

Length: 2.6 miles / 4.2 km

Elevation gain: 1138 ft / 347 m

Difficulty: Moderate

Another option is to hike the Misery Ridge Trail as an out-and-back trail, but you will then miss out on Monkey Face Rock. The elevation gain stays the same as hiking the Misery Ridge Loop and River Trail, so it actually doesn’t make a lot of sense to do this hike out and back. Especially because the trail along the river will be so easy and quick due to the flat terrain. And because the River Trail also provides stunning views, I highly recommend hiking Misery Ridge as a loop including the River Trail. 

Option 3: Misery Ridge Loop and Summit Trail

Length: 6.3 miles / 10.0 km

Elevation gain: 1761 ft / 537 m

Difficulty: Hard

The longer version of the Misery Ridge Loop includes the Summit Trail. With this trail you will explore the east part of the park and get the most steep climbs. However, this area is almost outside of the park, so it provides fewer epic views. Therefore it is least recommended if you’re coming for the best views. 

Canyon Trail and Homestead Trail

Length: 1.5 miles  / 2.4 km 

Elevation gain: 206 ft / 63 m

Difficulty: Easy

The Canyon Trail is one of the easy trails in the park with little to no elevation gain. Looping along the river and with stunning views of the rock formations, this is a great family-friendly hike that doesn’t cost much effort to complete. 

You can also combine the Canyon Trail with the Rim Rock Trail which makes it a total of 3.4 miles / 5.4 km. with 627 ft. / 191 m. elevation gain. There is also a picnic area along this trail which makes it a great place for a lunch break.


Burma Road Trail 

Length: 7 miles / 11.3 km

Elevation gain: 1253 ft / 382 m

Difficulty: Moderate to hard

This loop provides amazing views during the entire trail. The initial elevation gain is a little brutal but worth it for the views. You combine some of the best trails in Smith Rock State Park during this hike, including the River trail, Canyon trail and the Summit trail. 

North Point Trail to Homestead Loop

Length: 1.8 miles / 2.8 km

Elevation gain: 206 ft / 63 m

Difficulty: Easy

This trail is a great option to get away from the crowds and you can do it both ways. North Point Trailhead is located at the end of the parking lot, while walking via the Homestead Trail takes you along the helipad area first. There you need to turn right before the bridge and follow the unidentified trail just above the river to the boulder field. Either way you wind along the river with excellent views on the giant basalt columns that line the Crooked River rapids below. 


Wolf Tree Trail  

Length: 2.6 miles / 4.3 km

Elevation gain: 406 ft / 124 m

Difficulty: Easy

This trail provides a spectacular view on the Crooked River. While it is very similar to the River trail, you go to the right of the main trail intersection instead of the left. There are quite a few shade trees after the first 1/4 miles of hiking, so it is a great option on a hot summer day.

Rock climbing

With over 1800 bolted routes, Smith Rock State Park is heaven for rock climbers. In fact, Smith Rock is Oregon’s best rock climbing destination, and even one of the best sport climbing areas in the United States. Did you know that Smith Rock is known as the birthplace of sport climbing in the U.S.? Even if you’re not a climber, it’s very cool to see them at work along the many rock faces. No permits or reservations are needed to climb in Smith Rock State Park except for a special event.



What is the best time to visit Smith Rock State Park?

The best season to visit Smith Rock State Park is during the spring and fall months. During these periods, from April to June and September to October, the weather is mild, and the temperatures are comfortable for outdoor activities. Spring offers blooming wildflowers, while fall showcases vibrant foliage. Even the winter season is a great time to visit as long as there is no snow on the trails.

It is advisable to avoid the peak summer months of July and August because temperatures can get quite hot and there is almost no shade along any of the trails. Otherwise, an early start is your best bet in the summer months and of course bring plenty of water. If you prefer a quieter experience with fewer crowds, visiting on weekdays or during the early morning hours is recommended.

Are dogs allowed in Smith Rock State Park?

Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash according to the animal leash law of Smith Rock State Park. This regulation is in place to ensure the safety of visitors, wildlife, and to protect the fragile aspect of the park.


Smith Rock State Park camping 

Camping near Smith Rock State Park is possible in the Bivouac Camping Area and Skull Hollow Campground. Bivouac Camping is open from 15 March until 15 November because of the seasonal closures for the campgrounds. Space is available on first come first serve base. 

Hotels near Smith Rock State Park 

What is the history of Smith Rock State Park?

Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon owes its formation to volcanic activity that originated around 30 million years ago. Due to a series of super-volcanic eruptions coming from the Cascade Range Mountains, massive amounts of volcanic ash, lava and other volcanic debris created the landscape with its volcanic features. Over time, these deposits solidified into the distinctive basalt rock formations visible in the park today.


If you wonder ‘What animals live in Smith Rock State Park?’ then you will be surprised by the variety of wildlife in the park. Common sightings include Golden Eagles soaring in the skies above the park. The Crooked River that cuts through the landscape supports a diverse ecosystem, and you might spot Mule Deer, River Otter, and Beavers along its banks. Birdwatchers can enjoy the presence of numerous bird species, including Red-Tailed Hawks, Cliff Swallows, Prairie Falcons and the occasional Bald Eagle. There are also plenty of small mammals residing in the park such as rabbits, ground squirrels, and a variety of reptiles.

More USA travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about Smith Rock State Park and that it will help you plan your visit. For more Oregon travel inspiration, head over to our other specific guides about this beautiful and diverse US State.


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