In the middle of Oregon lies an unlikely place. Here, in the arid plains of the High Desert, a collection of towering rock pillars, formations and cliffs form one of Oregon’s “Seven Wonders.” This is Smith Rock State Park, the birthplace of American sport climbing and one of the reasons that nearby Bend is such a hub for adventure travelers.
Adventuring in Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park
Although this is a rather small state park, no bigger than 641 acres, there is plenty to do here. From easy strolls and chill horseback rides to adrenaline-boosting highlining and climbing 500-foot rock walls, whatever outdoor activity you prefer, you’ll probably find it here.
It may seem impossible, but it’s true. There are several thousand climbing routes in Smith Rock State Park, about a thousand of which are bolted routes. It’s mind-boggling number, but when you’re there, you’ll quickly realize what a climbing paradise this place actually is.
Home to famous rock formations such as the Morning Glory Wall, Red Wall and Monkey Face, it attracts various types of climbers—sport climbers, traditional climbers and boulderers.
If you’d rather keep your feet firmly on the ground, Smith Rock State Park offers some fantastic hiking, too. There are twelve trails within the park, along with several more in the surrounding area.
The 2.5-mile River Trail is an easy walk along the meandering Crooked River without hardly any elevation change at all. More challenging hikes include the Misery Ridge Trail to the canyon rim and the Burma Road Trail, the latter of which is also suitable for the next two Smith Rock activities.
Mountain biking in Smith Rock State Park is allowed in regular paved roads as well as on five trails in and around the canyon. The beauty is that many of them connect to other trails on adjacent Bureau of Land Management lands.
Remember that Smith Rock mountain biking is not suitable for beginners. The surface consists of sand, loose gravel and small rocks, which makes the descents technical and sometimes challenging. Ascents, on the other hand, can be pretty steep. Always wear a helmet and bring a water bottle.
You can go horseback riding on four trails in the park. Although some busy sections are closed to horse, you can still explore large sections of Smith Rock on horseback. Two horse fords crossing the Crooked River connect trails in the northern and southern areas. Because all horse trails are shared with other recreationists, the best time of the day to go for a ride is early in the morning.