Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

The Quick Guide To Smith Rock State Park, Oregon


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Catrina Cable



Welcome to Smith Rock State Park, one of Oregon’s premier outdoor destinations. Located in Central Oregon’s high desert, this hidden gem offers breathtaking landscapes, thrilling outdoor activities, and a chance to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty. Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast, a rock climbing aficionado, or simply seeking a peaceful getaway, Smith Rock State Park has something for everyone.


Known as the birthplace of modern American sport climbing, Smith Rock State Park attracts climbers from around the world. With towering cliffs and challenging routes, it offers an unparalleled experience for both beginners and seasoned veterans. But climbing is just the tip of the iceberg – the park also boasts miles of scenic hiking trails, fascinating geological formations, and a diverse range of wildlife.


Smith Rock State Park is nestled along the Crooked River, offering stunning views of the surrounding red rock canyons and towering spires. The park’s unique geological features, formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity, create a captivating backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers alike.


As you venture into the park, you’ll marvel at the sheer beauty of Monkey Face, a 350-foot tall rock pillar that resembles a primate’s profile. Other notable rock formations like the Picnic Lunch Wall and the Morning Glory Wall will leave you in awe of nature’s artistic prowess.


Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a multi-day adventure, Smith Rock State Park has a variety of camping and accommodation options. From tent sites to RV hookups, you can immerse yourself in nature while enjoying modern amenities.


Before embarking on your journey, make sure to familiarize yourself with the park’s rules and regulations. Respect for the environment, wildlife, and other visitors is crucial to preserving the natural beauty of this pristine wilderness.


So, lace up your hiking boots, strap on your climbing gear, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure at Smith Rock State Park. With its stunning vistas, thrilling outdoor activities, and a sense of tranquility that can only be found in nature, this iconic destination is sure to leave you with memories to last a lifetime.


Location of Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park is located in Central Oregon, approximately 30 minutes north of Bend. Set amidst the stunning beauty of the high desert, this natural wonder is easily accessible for visitors traveling from any direction.


The park spans over 650 acres and is situated along the banks of the Crooked River. Its geographical location provides a unique blend of rich volcanic landscapes and stunning rock formations. The park stands out as an oasis of rugged beauty in an otherwise arid and expansive desert.


To reach Smith Rock State Park, you can take Highway 97 or the nearby Redmond Airport. If you’re driving from inner Oregon, the journey will take you through scenic routes with picturesque views of the Cascade Mountains and lush meadows.


Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by the park’s iconic entrance, lined with towering cliffs and dramatic rock formations. The visitor center, conveniently located near the parking area, provides valuable information about the park’s history, activities, and safety guidelines.


As you explore Smith Rock State Park’s various trails and viewpoints, you’ll be treated to breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding landscape. The park’s proximity to the Deschutes River and the Cascade Range adds to its allure, offering a diverse array of natural wonders to explore.


While Smith Rock State Park may be off the beaten path, its seclusion is part of its charm. Visitors can experience a sense of tranquility and solitude amidst the vastness of the high desert, making it the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.


Whether you’re a local seeking a weekend getaway or a traveler venturing into Central Oregon for the first time, Smith Rock State Park is a must-visit destination that showcases the unique beauty of the region. So pack up your camping gear, grab your camera, and get ready to immerse yourself in the natural wonder of Smith Rock State Park.


History of Smith Rock State Park

The history of Smith Rock State Park dates back thousands of years and is intertwined with the rich cultural heritage of Native American tribes that have inhabited the region. These tribes, including the Northern Paiute, gathered and hunted in the area, leaving behind traces of their presence.


The park’s name pays tribute to a prominent figure in the area’s history, Jess Smith, a pioneer homesteader who settled near the banks of the Crooked River in the late 1800s. Smith and his family made a living raising cattle and farming, utilizing the fertile land surrounding the rock formations.


It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that Smith Rock gained recognition as a world-class climbing destination. In the 1930s, climbers began exploring the unique rock formations and cliffs, developing new techniques that would revolutionize the sport of rock climbing.


In the 1960s and 70s, renowned climbers like Alan Watts and Bill Ramsey discovered the unparalleled climbing potential of Smith Rock. They established challenging routes that would push the boundaries of the sport, attracting climbers from near and far to test their skills on the park’s rugged walls.


In 1960, the state of Oregon acquired the park and designated it as a state park, ensuring its preservation and accessibility for future generations. Since then, Smith Rock State Park has continued to evolve as a premier outdoor recreation destination.


Today, the park draws climbers, hikers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts from around the world. Its significance as the birthplace of modern American sport climbing has earned it a place in climbing history. The park also serves as an outdoor classroom, offering educational programs that delve into the geology, flora, and fauna of the area.


As you explore Smith Rock State Park, take a moment to appreciate the generations of indigenous people, pioneers, and climbers who have left their mark on this remarkable place. Their legacy lives on in the park’s captivating scenery, exhilarating activities, and the spirit of adventure that permeates this iconic destination.


Geology of Smith Rock State Park

The geological formations of Smith Rock State Park are a testament to the powerful forces that have shaped the landscape over millions of years. The park is predominantly composed of welded tuff, a type of volcanic rock formed from the deposition and solidification of volcanic ash.


Approximately 30 million years ago, a series of volcanic eruptions occurred in the area, releasing massive amounts of ash and pyroclastic flows. Over time, these deposits were compacted and fused together, creating the characteristic cliffs, spires, and rock formations that define Smith Rock State Park.


The most iconic feature of the park is Monkey Face, a 350-foot tall rock pillar that juts out from the cliff wall. This unique formation, resembling the profile of a primate, is a result of erosion and differential weathering. Over centuries, the relentless forces of wind, water, and ice have sculpted the rock, leaving behind this awe-inspiring natural wonder.


Another remarkable geological feature in the park is the Picnic Lunch Wall, a towering cliff of columnar basalt. These striking formations are the result of lava flows that occurred around 17 to 14 million years ago. As the lava cooled and solidified, it fractured into hexagonal columns, creating an impressive display of geometric patterns.


Throughout the park, visitors can also observe other fascinating rock formations such as the Morning Glory Wall, the Smith Rock Group, and the Phoenix Buttress. These diverse formations provide a playground for climbers and a visual feast for photographers.


In addition to the volcanic rock formations, the Crooked River that runs through the park has played a significant role in shaping the landscape. Over time, the river has eroded the softer layers of sedimentary rock, exposing the more resistant volcanic rock beneath.


Exploring the geology of Smith Rock State Park is like stepping back in time, witnessing the extraordinary processes that have shaped the Earth’s surface. It’s a testament to the dynamic nature of our planet and offers a glimpse into the powerful forces that continue to mold our world to this day.


Trails and Hiking in Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park offers a network of trails that wind through the breathtaking landscapes, providing hikers with a variety of options to explore the park’s natural wonders. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely stroll along the river or a challenging ascent to panoramic viewpoints, there’s a trail for every skill level and interest.


The most iconic and popular trail in the park is the Misery Ridge Loop. This challenging trail takes you on a steep ascent up Misery Ridge, offering panoramic views of the Crooked River, Monkey Face, and the surrounding rock formations. The trail then descends through a series of switchbacks before returning to the starting point. It’s a strenuous hike but well worth the effort for the incredible vistas it offers.


If you’re looking for a more moderate hike, the River Trail is a great option. This scenic trail follows the banks of the Crooked River, providing stunning views of the canyon and the towering cliffs above. Along the way, you’ll encounter peaceful picnic areas, tranquil riverside spots, and an abundance of wildlife. It’s the perfect trail for a leisurely stroll or a relaxing family hike.


For those seeking a longer adventure, the Summit Trail offers an exhilarating trek to the top of Gray Butte. This rugged and less-traveled trail takes you through open terrain, offering sweeping views of the park and the surrounding desert landscape. It’s a challenging hike, but the solitude and breathtaking views make it a favorite among experienced hikers.


Smith Rock State Park also boasts a variety of shorter trails, each with its own unique highlights. The Mesa Verde Trail takes you through a juniper forest and leads to breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the park. The Burma Road Trail offers a peaceful walk through the park’s northern section, dotted with wildflowers during the spring and summer months.


No matter which trail you choose, it’s important to be prepared and follow safety guidelines. Wear appropriate footwear, carry plenty of water, and be aware of your surroundings. The park can get hot during the summer months, so it’s essential to protect yourself from the sun and stay hydrated.


Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner looking to explore the outdoors, Smith Rock State Park offers a range of trails that cater to all skill levels. So lace up your hiking boots, grab a trail map, and embark on an unforgettable adventure through the stunning landscapes of Smith Rock State Park.


Climbing at Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park has earned its reputation as a premier destination for rock climbing, attracting climbers from around the world. With its towering cliffs, challenging routes, and breathtaking views, it offers a diverse range of climbing experiences for both beginners and seasoned climbers.


As the birthplace of modern American sport climbing, Smith Rock holds a special place in climbing history. In the 1980s, the park saw a surge in popularity as legendary climbers like Alan Watts and Todd Skinner pushed the limits of the sport by establishing increasingly difficult routes.


The park provides over 2,000 climbing routes across a wide range of grades and styles, ensuring there’s something for everyone. From easy top-rope routes for beginners to technically demanding multi-pitch climbs for experts, Smith Rock offers endless opportunities for challenge and advancement.


One of the iconic climbing areas in the park is the Phoenix Buttress, known for its steep, challenging routes. With its prominent overhangs and intricate face climbs, it’s a favorite among experienced climbers seeking a test of strength, balance, and technique.


For those new to climbing, the park offers a variety of guided classes and programs. From introductory lessons on basic climbing techniques to advanced courses on lead climbing and anchor building, there are options for climbers of all skill levels to improve their abilities and gain confidence on the rocks.


It’s important to note that climbing at Smith Rock State Park requires a climbing permit, which can be obtained at the park’s visitor center. The permits help maintain the park’s climbing resources and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all climbers.


As you embark on your climbing adventure, remember to practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the park’s rules and regulations. Minimize your impact on the environment, be mindful of other climbers, and follow safe climbing practices to preserve the natural beauty of Smith Rock for future generations to enjoy.


Whether you’re a climbing enthusiast or a curious beginner, Smith Rock State Park offers an unparalleled experience in the world of rock climbing. Come and challenge yourself on the vertical walls, embrace the camaraderie of the climbing community, and discover the thrill of scaling the magnificent cliffs of this iconic destination.


Wildlife at Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park is not only a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts but also a haven for a diverse array of wildlife. The park’s unique desert ecosystem provides habitat for a variety of species, making it a prime location for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.


One of the most iconic species found in the park is the golden eagle. With their impressive wingspan and graceful flight, these majestic birds of prey can often be seen soaring above the cliffs, scanning the landscape for their next meal. Keep a watchful eye as you explore the park, and you might be lucky enough to spot one of these magnificent creatures in action.


Smith Rock State Park is also home to a thriving population of river otters. These playful and elusive creatures can be frequently spotted near the Crooked River, gliding through the water or frolicking along its banks. Watching their playful antics is a delightful sight and offers a glimpse into the natural beauty and diversity of the park.


Other notable wildlife species that call Smith Rock home include mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, and various species of raptors. The park’s rugged terrain and abundant vegetation provide ample food and shelter for these animals, creating a thriving ecosystem.


As you hike or climb through the park, keep an eye out for smaller creatures as well. Chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits scurry through the underbrush, while reptiles like lizards and snakes bask in the sun. The diversity of wildlife at Smith Rock State Park is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of these creatures in the harsh desert environment.


When observing wildlife, it’s essential to maintain a safe distance and avoid disturbing their natural behavior. Respect their space and enjoy the privilege of witnessing these animals thriving in their natural habitat.


Remember to bring a camera and capture the remarkable moments you encounter. Photographing the park’s wildlife not only allows you to document your experience but also contributes to the scientific understanding and conservation efforts of these species.


Smith Rock State Park offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and witness the wonders of wildlife in their natural habitat. So keep your eyes peeled, your senses open, and be prepared to be amazed by the diverse and vibrant wildlife that calls this extraordinary park their home.


Camping and Accommodation Options

For those seeking an immersive outdoor experience, Smith Rock State Park provides a range of camping and accommodation options to suit different preferences and needs. Whether you prefer to sleep under the stars or enjoy the comforts of modern amenities, there’s a choice for everyone.


Smith Rock State Park offers several designated campsites where visitors can pitch their tents and enjoy a night surrounded by nature. The walk-in bivy sites are located near the park’s main trails and provide a more secluded camping experience. These sites offer basic amenities such as picnic tables and fire rings, allowing you to enjoy a cozy evening by the campfire.


If you prefer a more comfortable camping experience, the nearby Skull Hollow Campground is a great option. Located just outside the park, it offers tent and RV camping with amenities such as restrooms, showers, and potable water. The campground provides a convenient basecamp for exploring Smith Rock and the surrounding area.


For those looking to stay overnight in the comfort of a roof over their heads, there are various accommodation options available in nearby towns. The city of Redmond, just a short drive away, offers a range of hotels, motels, and vacation rentals to suit different budgets and preferences.


Alternatively, the city of Bend, located approximately 30 minutes south of Smith Rock, provides a wide variety of accommodations, from luxury resorts to cozy bed and breakfasts. Staying in Bend allows you to explore not only Smith Rock State Park but also the many other natural wonders and attractions that Central Oregon has to offer.


When planning to camp or stay overnight, it’s important to make reservations in advance, especially during the peak summer season. This ensures that you have a spot secured and can make the most of your time in the park.


Whether you choose to camp in the park, stay in a nearby campground, or opt for a more comfortable accommodation, the opportunity to wake up amidst the stunning beauty of Smith Rock State Park is an experience not to be missed. The peacefulness of the desert landscape and the starry night sky will leave you with memories to cherish for years to come.


Photography Opportunities at Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park serves as a picturesque wonderland for photographers, offering a myriad of unique and captivating subjects to capture. Whether you’re a professional photographer or an enthusiastic hobbyist, the park’s stunning landscapes, dramatic rock formations, and diverse wildlife present endless opportunities to capture breathtaking images.


One of the most iconic photography spots in the park is the view of Monkey Face from the River Trail. The towering cliffs, the winding Crooked River, and the distinctive rock pillar create a stunning composition that exemplifies the park’s beauty. Be sure to get a shot of Monkey Face during golden hour, when the warm light casts a magical glow on the rock formation.


The Picnic Lunch Wall is another incredible location for photography enthusiasts. The dramatic vertical cliffs, adorned with climbers ascending their routes, provide a dynamic and visually striking subject. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to capture the energy and adrenaline of rock climbing.


For those with a passion for wildlife photography, Smith Rock State Park offers a range of opportunities to capture the natural beauty of its inhabitants. Keep your camera at the ready to capture images of golden eagles soaring through the sky, river otters playfully swimming in the water, or mule deer grazing in the meadows. Patience and observation are key when photographing wildlife, allowing you to capture those rare and intimate moments in nature.


The park’s diverse vegetation, including juniper trees, wildflowers, and sagebrush, also present fantastic opportunities for close-up and macro photography. Capture the delicate details of a wildflower in bloom or the texture of the weathered rocks. These small but exquisite elements add depth and richness to your photography.


When photographing at Smith Rock State Park, it’s important to be mindful of the natural environment and respectful of other visitors. Stay on designated trails and respect any signs or restrictions to preserve the fragile ecosystem. Leave No Trace principles are essential to maintaining the park’s beauty for future generations to enjoy.


Whether you’re capturing the grand vistas, the intimate moments in nature, or the human spirit of adventure, Smith Rock State Park offers endless opportunities to unleash your creativity and capture stunning images. So grab your camera, explore the park’s diverse landscapes, and let your creative vision come to life as you document the extraordinary beauty of Smith Rock.


Visitor Information and Park Rules

When planning a visit to Smith Rock State Park, it’s important to be aware of the visitor information and park rules to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all. Familiarize yourself with the following guidelines to make the most of your time at this stunning outdoor destination.


Operating Hours: Smith Rock State Park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Some areas of the park, such as the Bivy Campground, have specific operating hours, so be sure to check ahead of time.


Entrance Fee: There is a day-use fee to enter Smith Rock State Park. The fee helps support the maintenance and preservation of the park’s resources. Alternatively, you can purchase an annual Oregon State Park Pass if you plan to visit multiple state parks in the region.


Permits: Climbing at Smith Rock State Park requires a climbing permit, which can be obtained at the park’s visitor center. The climbing permit ensures the safety of climbers and helps protect the unique climbing resources of the park. Bivouac camping also requires a permit.


Stay on Designated Trails: To protect the fragile desert ecosystem, it is crucial to stay on designated trails. Straying from the trails can cause damage to vegetation and disrupt wildlife habitats. Respect any signage or restrictions along the trails.


Pack Out Your Trash: Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all your trash and disposing of it properly. Help keep the park clean and preserve its natural beauty for future visitors.


Respect Wildlife: Observe wildlife from a safe distance and avoid approaching or feeding them. It’s important to remember that Smith Rock State Park is their home, and we are visitors in their natural habitat.


Climbing Safety: If you’re planning to climb in the park, ensure you have the necessary climbing skills and experience. Follow safe climbing practices, use proper equipment, and be aware of the risks associated with climbing. Check the weather conditions and be prepared for changing weather patterns.


Wilderness Restrictions: Some areas of the park may have specific restrictions or closures to protect sensitive habitats or nesting wildlife. Respect any wilderness restrictions and do not enter closed areas.


Pets: Pets are allowed in Smith Rock State Park but must be kept on a leash at all times. Be responsible for your pets, clean up after them, and ensure they do not disturb wildlife or other visitors.


Visitor Center: Visit the park’s visitor center for maps, trail information, and updates on current conditions. The knowledgeable staff can provide valuable insights and answer any questions you may have about the park.


By following these rules and guidelines, you can help preserve the natural integrity of Smith Rock State Park and ensure a positive experience for yourself and future visitors. Enjoy your time in this breathtaking outdoor haven while promoting conservation and sustainable practices.



Smith Rock State Park in Oregon is a true natural wonder, offering a combination of stunning landscapes, thrilling outdoor activities, and a rich cultural history. From its towering cliffs and dramatic rock formations to its diverse wildlife and peaceful hiking trails, the park provides a sensory feast for visitors of all ages and interests.


As the birthplace of modern American sport climbing, Smith Rock is a mecca for climbers seeking both challenge and inspiration. The park’s steep walls and intricate routes offer a playground for climbers of all skill levels, while its breathtaking vistas create an awe-inspiring backdrop for adventure.


For hikers and nature enthusiasts, Smith Rock State Park is a paradise. Its network of trails winds through the desert landscape, revealing hidden gems at every turn. From the awe-inspiring Misery Ridge Loop to the tranquil River Trail, there’s a path for every level of fitness and interest.


Photographers are treated to a visual feast at every corner of the park. From sunrise to sunset, the play of light and shadow on the cliffs and the chance to capture stunning wildlife encounters make Smith Rock a photographer’s dream destination.


Smith Rock State Park is not just a place to explore, but a place to connect with nature and appreciate the remarkable forces that have shaped the landscape over millions of years. It is a place where you can find tranquility, challenge yourself, and witness the beauty of the natural world in all its glory.


As you venture into Smith Rock State Park, remember to abide by the park rules, practice Leave No Trace principles, and respect the wildlife and other visitors. Let’s work together to preserve the park’s natural integrity and ensure future generations can continue to enjoy its splendor.


Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, a peaceful retreat, or a chance to capture breathtaking photographs, Smith Rock State Park offers an unforgettable experience. So, lace up your boots, grab your camera, and embark on an adventure that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime in this extraordinary outdoor playground.