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Central Oregon Travel Smith Rock State Park

Updated on October 5, 2012

Central Oregon Travel: Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon is a place that will take your breath away literally! Whether you are traveling to rock climb at Smith Rock or just to enjoy the 10 miles of hiking trails, it will be an experience you will never forget.

Located about 10 miles northeast of the city of Redmond, Oregon, Smith Rock State Park is located just outside the town of Terrebone. This magnificent state park attracts more than 500,000 rock climbers per year to scale the over 1000 vertical challenges located on the many beautiful rock faces that make up the park.

Smith Rock is a rock climber's paradise and people from all over the world come to Central Oregon just to climb here. However, even if you are not into rock climbing, you can make a day trip to the park and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery Oregon has to offer and experience a hike that will quite simply leave you breathless.

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  The Many Faces of Smith Rock---photos by Audrey Kirchner
  The Many Faces of Smith Rock---photos by Audrey Kirchner
The Many Faces of Smith Rock---photos by Audrey Kirchner

Smith Rock is another of the volcanic wonders of this part of Central Oregon and was formed in much the same way as the Cascade Mountain Range. The spewing of ash and millions of years of erosion by the elements has created a natural masterpiece in the many colors and sites that we know as Smith Rock.

The rock formations are absolutely staggering and the glorious colors that you see in the rocks are ever changing. Given any time of day, you will see the rocks in a different light and as well, see them in their changing colors. Their textures are likewise variable from one part of the park to another and depending on the season, the foliage itself lends even more contrast and beauty to the surroundings.

Adding to the pristine feel of the park, the Crooked River is a site to see as it courses through the canyon having carved out its path so many years ago.  There is abundant wildlife to see in the park, marvelous hiking trails of more than 10 miles and of course the over 1000 climbing venues.  It is easy to see why Smith Rock is perhaps the most popular of all of Central Oregon's parks and perhaps one of the most popular in all of Oregon.

Smith Rock boasts 2 of the most difficult rock climbing routes in the United States. People of every age come here to rock climb - from the novice to the experienced.  There are always classes and demonstrations available for anyone who is interested.  In the fall, there are also interpretive classes organized at the park by the park experts.

For more information, visit Smith Rock State Park's website.

About Smith Rock

  • Smith Rock is open 365 days per year and is a day-use park that closes at 10:00 p.m.
  • The park is famous for the rock formation that many climbers climb - Monkey Face
  • There is 1 way down into the park - a steep 1/2 mile trail
  • There is 1 way out of the park - back up the steep 1/2 mile trail - it will leave you breathless
  • There are more than 10 miles of hiking trails and mountain biking trails - some of them moderately strenuous
  • More than 1000 vertical climbing opportunities await the rock climber
  • Fishing is excellent in the Crooked River
  • Tent camping is available in the park off the bivouac area parking lot - mostly used by climbers
  • BBQ, picnic areas and restrooms are available
  • Designated areas for cooking with propane and white gas - no fires are allowed 
  • Dogs are allowed - however, MUST be on a leash at ALL times - there is a $142 fine
  • Monkey Face Trail is a very quick ascent, extremely steep climb.  The view from atop is absolutely gorgeous.  You end up looking right at the climbers on top of Monkey Face and can watch them climbing - up close and personal
  • Misery Ridge Trail meanders along the river and is a great walk - just remember at the end you have to haul yourself back up the 1/2 mile steep climb
  • Many campgrounds are located throughout Central Oregon from RV's to tent camping through the Bureau of Land Management
  • Smith Rock was the backdrop for most of Kevin Costner's movie The Postman - John Wayne also filmed a movie there among others
  • A forest fire in the park in 1996 claimed many trees but the park is again flourishing
  • Golden eagles, falcons, swallows, mule deer, otters, beavers, rattlesnakes, bull snakes and lizards abound in the park. It is also cougar country so beware and report any sightings!

Things To Remember

If you are taking dogs with you to the park, they MUST be kept on leash at all times and if not, there is a $142 fine for this which is strictly enforced.

Also keep in mind that as you are going down the steep 1/2 mile shale path to the floor of the canyon, it is a very narrow path and you are passing other folks constantly - with and without dogs so dogs must be kept under control at all times.

If you are taking dogs into the park, you are expected to also dispose of their waste properly so carry doggie clean-up bags.

Don't forget water - for humans and dogs alike. It is a steep climb and some of the trails are extremely strenuous so make sure you are hydrated and that you take along water. There is a water fountain at the bottom of the trail but none anywhere else - also no trash cans are located along the trails so pack out what you pack in.

Take your camera - the views and photo ops are incredible! On any given day or even at different times in the same day, you will never get the same picture of the canyon walls twice.

If you become engrossed in watching the rock climbers above you as you walk down the trails, be aware at all times of falling rock. Usually the climbers will yell out to you but be aware that there is a chance that rocks will tumble down from above.

Also walking along the paths, be cognizant at all times of bull snakes. These are pretty huge, harmless snakes that continually meander across the paths. They literally stretch from one end of the path to the opposite side.  If you are looking up at the climbers, it is possible that you may step on one and not be aware until it is too late. It is more frightening than anything else - to you and the snake! (Been there, done this)

STAY ON THE PATHS at all times!!! This park is rattlesnake country and they can strike in an instant before people are aware that they are there. Listen for the telltale rattle but the best way to avoid being bitten (which is a medical emergency) is to stay on the paths. There are areas in the park in which rattlers are more prevalent at certain times of the year - pick up the information at the provided stations in the park to be safe. (Another really good reason to have dogs on leash and staying on the paths)

There are several grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and a pub for convenience and satisfying your appetite before arriving at the park or on leaving the park in Terrebone.  Redmond is 10 miles south as you exit in Terrebone.

Summing It Up

If you are looking for an adventure and you are a rock climber, Smith Rock is your cup of tea!

If on the other hand, you are looking for a spectacular natural wonder to visit, Smith Rock is also for you.  Even if you choose not to hike the park, the parking lots have beautiful vistas that are breathtaking and make for great photo opportunities. 

When traveling to Smith Rock, be prepared - check the temperature and weather forecast and make sure that you have proper attire, food and water.  Also make sure that you have proper hiking equipment and/or climbing equipment.  You can pick up information at many different stations in the park or at the little general store right before the park.

Most of all, enjoy this treasure in the heart of Central Oregon.  Seeing is believing - the beauty of Smith Rock is unparalleled.


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    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Poetry Man - Thanks for the read - it is truly a mesmerizing kinda place and we are fortunate to have it only 30 minutes or so away!

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      10 years ago

      very informative. nicely done. a beautiful place

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      11 years ago from Washington

      Me, too - I just get fascinated by watching them dangling up there....yikes. Thanks for commenting Dolores.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Whoah, this place looks so beautiful! But I would pass on the rock climbing.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      11 years ago from Washington

      I know - it is TOO hilarious - but if you know about the snakes, I'm like did you need to tell me to keep them on a leash??? I think by the time we got the heck out of there after a rattlesnake bite it might be pushing it since we might have to carry them! I have to check if they take debit cards now that I'm thinking about it...

    • theherbivorehippi profile image


      11 years ago from Holly, MI

      Such great information! I am wondering about the $142 fine for an unleashed What..they couldn't decide on $140 or $145? Well written hub!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      11 years ago from Washington

      Sandyspider - thanks so much for commenting - the place makes it easy to write about as it is so beautiful.

      Darlene - I grew up in San Diego and actually had a run-in with a rattlesnake and hence I think my terrific fear of snakes in general. When I stepped on the bull snake, I about had a heart attack - thankfully I did not squash him or make him mad! Yikes....thanks for commenting.

      BkCreative - you are too kind. And no - that was not me in any of those pics - I have a very healthy fear of heights so don't think I'll be up there climbing any time soon. I have enough trouble keeping focused on the trail though when I go because I'm always watching the climbers - and watching for the rocks falling issue. Once we were walking the trail and someone kept yelling - it took me a while to figure out what they were yelling...I think I may be special ed!

      Holle - I'll hold you to it! I'll bring the picnic and we will have a blast - it would even be more fun with Hamlet and Grendel and my 2 mals! I still have to write my part of this about the yodeling malamute. Thanks so much for reading.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      Amazing place! Maybe someday we'll make it to OR!

    • BkCreative profile image


      11 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Wow akirchner - a brilliant writer, humorist and photographer! There is something very haunting about rocks and mountains. Now, was that you scaling the face of that rock - on standing on the top?

      Great hub and photos and advice. Thanks so much!

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      11 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Sounds fantastic my dear friend, I love adventures like this, and my sister lives in Pendleton. I was raised in rattlesnake country myself and I remember, more then seeing the snakes, seeing the skin they shed as a perfect minder they also live among us. I love this hub and this is a rated thumbs up

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Thanks for the info on Smith Rock. Looks like a great place to visit.


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