Smith Rock State Park is one of the most jaw-dropping places I have ever visited. Situated just under 3 hours from Portland, south of Mount Hood National Forest, Smith Rock is an internationally renowned gem of Oregon.
Legend goes that settlers arrived in the area in the mid-1800s, resulting in US soldiers arriving to protect the Indians on reservations (mostly from horse theft). Chief Paulina, who did not live on the reservation, stole horses from the Indians who did. On one of the nights he planned to thieve, he divided his men and they lay in ambush amongst the rocks of now-Smith Rock State Park. The soldiers encountered the men lying in wait, resulting in a bloody battle, during which Private Volk Smith fell from the top of Smith Summit while trying to get a good vantage point of the battle. The area was named for him.
Smith Rock State Park protects a sanctuary of majestic rock spires that rise above the winding Crooked River in central Oregon's high desert.
You can visit year-round but please come prepared for the heat, especially in the summer months. Bring plenty of water and a wide-brimmed hat, as it can reach up to 38 degrees C in the park. Day-use permits are required for $5 USD which can be purchased from self-service stations.
Activities To Do in Smith Rock State Park
The Bivy Campground takes first-come, first-serve visitors near the park. This often fills up early in the day between April and October on weekends and holidays. Vacancies are not posted online, so take your chances!
One of the reasons Smith Rock continues to draw visitors from around the globe is its exceptional climbing. Best done with an American Mountain Guide Associated accredited guide (check out Chockstone Guides, Smith Rock Guides, Smith Rock Climbing School or Timberline Mountain Guides), these rocks are tall, steep and fantastic.
The best way to experience the majesty of Smith Rock is to hit a trail. Be prepared for searing heat - bring plenty of water and sun protectants (hats, sun cream, sleeves).
- Canyon to Rim Loop - 3.4 miles - the best hike to get a glimpse of all the wonders that go on in the park
- Homstead to North Point Loop - 1.8 miles - river and rim hike
- Reverse Misery Ridge Loop - 3.7 miles - tip of the rocks for panoramic views
- Summit Loop - 7.3 miles - views of the entire park stretched out before you