Smith Rock became world famous in the mid-1980s as a rock climbing destination, and offers routes for beginning to expert climbers. Climbing is very technical and dangerous, and proper instruction is critical. Several guide services operate in the park. Guidebooks with information about climbing can be purchased at local shops.
Rock climbers enjoy their sport year round, but the busiest seasons are spring and fall. Routes are found throughout the park, but the main concentration is ¼ mile downstream from the footbridge. If you make it over to Monkey Face, you might see people climbing the easiest route on the south face, which was first climbed in 1960. Or, you might see someone on Just Do It on the east face: Smith’s hardest route, first climbed in 1992. It is also the first 514c. rated route in America.
Several miles of developed trails provide access to popular rock climbing areas, offering expansive views along the Crooked River, and from the top of the Summit Trail and Misery Ridge Trail. Many trails offer excellent views of rock climbers while others link to BLM/USFS land to the northeast. Asterisk Pass is a “rock scramble.” Rope use is recommended.
Please stay on established trails to minimize the effects of foot traffic on delicate soil structure and native vegetation. Sloped areas in the park are especially sensitive to damage. In this region of scarce rainfall, it takes many years for nature to heal damaged or disturbed areas.
Wildlife is abundant, particularly deer and small mammals. Birds cavort on the rocks and use ledges and overhangs for their homes. Geese nest along the river in the spring. Watch for warning signs about nests inhabited by birds of prey. Please stay away from these areas to avoid disturbing the adults and their young. Be alert for rattlesnakes, especially on warm, sunny days.
A Fun Place to Learn
Regular interpretive presentations and special events help adults and youngsters learn about the park’s rich natural history. In September and October, the park is a prime setting for Oregon Archaeology Celebration activities.
A walk-in bivouac area serves visitors who want to stay overnight. Park your vehicles in the bivouac parking area and hike 200 yards west to the tent campsites. Showers, restrooms and common cooking area are located adjacent to the parking area. RV camping, sleeping in vehicles, and open fires are strictly prohibited.
The Crooked River Caldera
Around 30 million years ago, a gigantic depression (caldera) was formed by the sudden collapse of overlying rock into an underground reservoir of molten rock. The resulting eruptions produced massive amounts of ash and debris, nearly filling the caldera. These deposits eventually hardened into rock: the largest, on the western rim, is known as the Smith Rock Tuff.
About a half a million years ago, flows of basalt lava poured into this area from vents nearly 50 miles away, capping off much of the tuff that filled the caldera. The flat upper area of the park and surrounding area is on the surface of these now-hardened lava flows. Over time, erosion by the Crooked River has exposed and sculpted the magnificent landscape you see today.
Day-Use Area Fees
Day-use parking permits are required year-round. You may purchase a daily permit from a yellow vending machine near the park entrance. Twelve-month and 24-month permits are sold by Smith Rock park hosts, at major state park offices and by selected area merchants. Your camping receipt also is accepted as a daily permit for the days you are registered.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.