Jagged volcanic rock erupt from the Central Oregon landscape that surrounds Smith Rock State Park. Shades of yellow, green, brown and blue make for wild visuals. The Crooked River lives up to its namesake as it winds around the molten rock. With abundant wildlife and sage in the air, awaken the senses and take in the beauty at this truly magical state park.
Get ready: A 30 minute drive from Bend, Smith Rock State Park is just north of Terrebonne, Oregon. Take Highway 97 North. You know you’re getting close when the speed slows and you drive through Terrebonne. Take a right onto Smith Rock Way, a left onto Lambert Drive then one more left onto NE Crooked River Drive. The parking lot is long and can fill up later in the day. Get there early, bring water and don’t forget $5 for the day parking fee.
Get set: The parking lot to the park looks down into the valley onto the rocks. Start by taking a steep descent down into the park. There is a bridge over the Crooked River. Walk over the bridge and you’ll see the trail sign for Misery Ridge Trail. The ascent might look daunting. It’s tough, no doubt, but the views are so worth it.
Go: The first ½ mile walk is from the parking lot to the trail head. It descends deep to the valley floor about 200 feet down. Walk over the gently flowing Crooked River. Turn right towards a formidable ascent, made to look even steeper by the sharp rocks towering above.
It’s a tough, quick, ½ mile walk up. Don’t feel bad about stopping to catch your breath – it’s a quick elevation gain. The view from the top is breathtaking.
Catch some air while you soak in the view of Central Oregon below. Continue onward, meandering through sage as you look down on the river mimicking your every turn. Walk past a surprising rock formation called Monkey Face and keep an eye out for rock climbers. The trail heads back down, more gently than the way up. The next couple miles are flat and follow the water. There’s even an opportunity for you to take a dip if you so please. Finish the hike heading back up to the parking lot, a 200 foot climb, easily the most challenging portion of the hike.
Effort: A 3.8 mile loop with more than 1000 feet in elevation gain, this hike is moderate to hard. For an experienced, fit hiker it could take an hour and a half. For a hiker that’s less experienced, plan to take a few hours on the trail and bring plenty of water. This trail is sure to tire you and any four-legged friends you might bring along.
Takeaway: This is one of our favorite trails in Central Oregon. Smith Rock is an enchanting, wondrous park.
Many a hike I’ve taken here, but my favorite by far was late in the day in July. I started a little too late and the sun began to set with a mile and a half to go. The sky turned a Central Oregon pink, purple and orange. The vibrant colors against the natural hues made for a paradise I wasn’t expecting. The views are fabulous and the trails are well groomed. This hike is sure to leave you with a feeling of satisfaction.