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11 Best Things to do in Smith Rock State Park

Although I had a few hours when I came here, I was able to find a lot of things to do in Smith Rock State Park and I was totally blown away not just by it’s beauty, but also by all how easy it is to explore this place and if you’ve never been here before, this post will show you 11 different activities to try when you do.

Quick info on Smith Rock State Park:

  • Name: Smith Rock State Park.
  • Location: Near Bend Oregon.
  • Family friendly? Yes!
  • Pet friendly? Yes!
  • Things to do: Hiking, nature walks, sunsets, climbing and much more (the 11 activities below will explain).
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Recommended? Yes! Smith Rock State Park is the first major place I visited in Eastern Oregon and I’m glad I took that chance because it opened my eyes to how beautiful this area of the state is. The park itself is also very accomodating in that anyone who likes nature will likely find one or more things to do that they’ll love here (the activities below will explain what they are).

Here are the 11 things to do in Smith Rock State Park:

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  1. Do the full Smith Rock Summit Loop hike (north part).
  2. Do the shorter Smith Rock loop (south end).
  3. Rock climbing.
  4. Picnics.
  5. Fishing.
  6. Camping.
  7. Mountain biking.
  8. Stick around for the sunsets and sunrises.
  9. Hike up Misery Ridge and find Monkey Face Rock Formation.
  10. Kayak the river around Smith Rock.
  11. Tight rope walks.

These 10 things to do in Smith Rock State Park list is perfect for kids, families, climbers hikers and trail runners like myself, because there many adventures available for people in any one of these categories. The point is, if you love nature, you are going to love this park.

1) Do the Smith Rock Summit Loop hike (white, north part):

smith rock state park canyon trail 02

If you’re looking to do a challenging hike and check as much of the park as possible, the Smith Rock Summit Loop hike may be just for you. It’s a 7-8 mile look hike that has you exploring the north end of the park. The following directions are for doing this trail in the clockwise order (you can choose to do this backwards).

  • It starts at the Canyon Trail (where most people start to enter the park).
  • Make a right once you pass the river and start on the Misery Ridge trail.
  • This will take you to the top of the park from the southern end, but then back down.
  • You will make a right on Mesa Verde trail and continue to Summit Trail.
  • Follow that for several miles to Burma Road.
  • Burma Road will meet Wolf Tree Trail and take you back to the start (completing the loop).

This is not an easy hike, especially when you’re on the Misery Ridge trail (having been on it, I can tell you it’s tough), but it is a great way to get further into the park, get better views of the top spots and also avoid most of the crowds.

2) Do the shorter loop hike. Here’s a Smith Rock State Park map of the main trails:

smith rock state park map of hiking trails

This is the trail I personally did the day I came here (marked in red on the map, white is the north trail). It’s about 4 miles long, and is a great way to get some great views of the park, also summit it and really enjoy yourself if you only have a few hours to spend here.

Here is how it works (counter clockwise trail):

  • You start at the Canyon Trail (1/4 mile).
  • You also go up Misery Ridge (1/2 mile).
  • You turn left on Mesa Verde trail and walk around the southern part of the park through the “River Trail” (3 miles).
  • The River trail will take you around the park and back to the Canyon trail.

Note: You can combine both the north and south loop trails into a FULL loop around the entire park, but this would make for a 12+ mile hike. You can use this map I provided for reference.

3) Rock climbing:

smith rock state park rock climbing photo

I was very surprised to learn that Smith Rock State Park is a very popular spot for rock climbing and saw many people doing it while doing the south loop hike. There are many areas in this park where rock climbing is permitted and on the day I was there, not only were many rock climbing areas filled up, but there were also large crowds observing the people (maybe even those waiting for their turns).

In any case, I enjoyed spectating this (definitely not doing that!). If you’re into rock climbing and scenic views, Smith Rock State Park is the place to be for that (if you’re in the Bend, Oregon area that is).

4) Picnics:

smith rock state park photos new 03

Yes picnicking is also a popular activity in this park. I passed a few places where people were enjoying that, but to me the best one was at the summit of the southern end of the park when I got to the top area of the Misery Ridge trail. There are great viewpoints of the park from there (360 degree views) and large, flat rock surfaces to enjoy a nice picnic here (think of that as a reward for making it up there).

5) Fishing:

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Fishing is another hot activity in this park. I only saw a few fishermen when I was there, but the views, mixed with the peacefulness of this park (other than near the parking area and crowded) spots, makes this place very fun for fishing. There are plenty of spots around the “Crooked River” to do this which is the main river encircling Smith Rock State Park.

6) Camping:

smith rock oregon new 08

There is at least 1 official camp site in the park, but I noticed that another way people camp here is within their cars. The place I left my car at was a very packed parking lot and there were many people and cars there that were camping inside their vehicles. Apparently this is a very popular thing to do here. Do note that to park anywhere in Smith Rock requires you pay for either a day pass or higher tier parking depending on how long you’re staying.

7) Mountain biking:

mountain biking smith rock state park 04

There are specific trails made for mountain bikers in this park too. I didn’t see any when I was on the main foot trail, but I do know that people do that here.

Given the landscape, I would think this park is perfect for mountain bike adventures, so if you’re into that, again, Smith Rock is the place to do it at. There are at least 15 miles of potential trails to check out inside the park, as well as nearby spots to also explore. This small park has a lot to offer mountain bikers of all levels.

8) Sunset and sunrise views:

smith rock state park sunset

This park is in eastern Oregon, so when the sun sets, it makes for incredible views. Just as well, sunrise here is also amazing to check out and this is where I envy the people who camp out here.

If anything, I would love to come to this park around the sun set period just to see the amazing views from behind Smith Rock light up. And after seeing how beautiful this park looks during the morning hours, I would happily come back to this park just to check off the sunset visit off my list.

9) Hike up Misery Ridge and check out Monkey Face Rock Formation:

smith rock state park misery ridge trail and monkey face rock formation

If you’re into trying out new, but challenging, short hikes, Misery Ridge is the place to be. I didn’t particularly enjoy it because I was hurt when I came here, but there are a lot of switchbacks on both the eastern and western sides of this trail but the good news is that you will quickly gain elevation while being on this trail and get to the summit of this park quickly.

On the western side of Misery Ridge is where you’ll find an amazing rock formation known as Monkey Face Rock Formation. I’ve actually seen people climb into several areas of it which stunned me. I have no idea how they managed to get in there, but its possible. Plus the western side of this trail also features some incredible views of Mount Hood and other giant mountains in the distance.

Note: Bring trekking poles. They’ll make hiking through Misery Ridge less miserable. I forgot my hiking poles (the trailbuddy trekking poles in the car because I didn’t think I’d need them here (but I regretted it).

10) Kayak the Crooked River (around the park):

smith rock state park kayak

Yes kayaking is another activity you can check off the list of things to do at Smith Rock State Park (it really has it all). I didn’t see any rental spots driving in, so you may likely have to get your own kayaks for this.

Personally when I came here (February), I didn’t see anyone kayaking but I always wondered if it was possible and with a little research, the answer was yes. You can start on the eastern end of the park and take it downriver (around) the park for an awesome adventure. The water in Smith Rock isn’t that deep so you don’t really have to worry much about that.

11) Tight rope walks:

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If you’re into extremes, tight rope walking might be the activity for you and guess what? This is another thing Smith Rock State Park holds. Check out info here on that, but overall, you will find at least one or more spots across the park where tight rope walks are available. Come to think of it I do believe I may have seen one person doing it while hiking up to the summit here.

Other questions about Smith Rock State Park Oregon:

Is Smith Rock State Park worth visiting?

Absolutely! Smith Rock State Park is very beautiful and easy to explore. It’s also close to other amazing places in Eastern Oregon that are worth seeing.

How long of a hike is Smith Rock?

It’s about a 3 mile hike to go around Smith Rock through what is known as the Canyon Trail.

Is Smith Rock a difficult hike?

There are several different hikes in Smith Rock State Park and the 2 most popular are the Canyon Trail which is easy and the Misery Ridge trail which is moderate. You can combine both trails to do 4 mile moderate loop around the main parts of the park.

8 things to do near Smith Rock State Park:

1) Check out a giant bridge 10 miles northwest of the park:

It is called Peter Skene State viewpoint. It’s a 300 foot bridge going over a large canyon.

2) Check out Toketee Falls:

Toketee Falls Oregon is south west of Smith Rock (about 2 hours) and features amazing waterfalls, hikes, hot springs and more.

3) Crater Lake:

If you’re into national park adventures, the closest one is Crater Lake (1-2 hours south of Smith Rock). It’s one of the best Oregon waterfall hikes.

4) The Cove Palisades Oregon:

This is another beautiful state park that bears some similarities to the kind of nature you see in Utah and Arizona. For Utah, there is a park called Goosenecks State Park which is near Monument Valley and for Arizona, it has some resemblance to Horseshoe Bend.

5) The Oregon Coast:

If you’re planning to do a giant trip across Oregon, you cannot miss the Oregon Coast.

6) Columbia River Gorge:

North west of Smith Rock (about 3-4 hours) is Mount Hood and north of that the amazing Columbia River Gorge, another spot worth checking out. If you’re headed from Bend to the Portland area, I would recommend plotting your GPS to take you through this region.

7) More parks in the state:

There’s so many other amazing state parks in Oregon to see.

8) Eastern Oregon:

If you like the views at Smith Rock State Park, I can almost certainly guarantee you can more places like it in Eastern Oregon too.

Have any questions about Smith Rock State Park or have any suggestions on what to see there? If so, then I’d love to know below!

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