Smith Rock

  • Level: moderate
  • Length: 4 miles
  • Elevation: 800 ft. gain
  • Type: loop
  • Open: all year
  • Permit: Oregon State Parks pass or $5
  • Drive time from Portland: 3 hours
  • Google map: “Smith Rock State Park”
  • Features: Central Oregon lava plains, rock-climbing, wildflowers, views, Crooked River, bird watching
  • Pair with: Tumalo Falls, Scout Camp Trail, Steelhead Falls, Cove Palisades

Other worldly beautiful, the yellow-orange rhyolite cliffs appear to change color with the seasons and sun’s position. The exaggerated bends of Crooked River snaking it’s way around the main attractions almost looks fake. Monkey Face, the 300-foot natural rock sculpture jutting above everything doesn’t exactly add to the park’s believability.

I’ve only been twice, but both times it rained as we started the hike and ended with beautiful sunshine. I also saw bald eagles in the same exact spots. There is something truly magnificent about this place. It always feels like a present.

Avoid the hottest days and weekends, if possible. It’s beyond popular. I’ve only gone midweek in poor weather and it was perfect. Also, Misery Ridge is not just a clever name. All of that elevation gain is on a teeny tiny stretch of the trail and the descent is nearly as steep.

Some day, I’d like to do the longer loop around the park, but this shorter one ensures more time for other adventures and there is so much to do in this area.

Kinda dreary as we rolled up.


But still freaky beautiful.


First real glimpse of Monkey Face!
Realizing as I look at this, that we actually took a different route to get up to the switchbacks. OH WELL, LOOK AT THAT LIGHT!
Monkey Face, from the back, looks like a giant dick. Pretty cool.

From the trailhead:

The trailhead is just past the visitor’s center to the right. Follow the cement walkway down to the dirt path. You should see a little bridge over the Crooked River. Take the bridge and head left along the river. Enjoy this sweet little flattish traipse for a little over 2 miles, ignoring all side trails. Just beyond Monkey Face, you’ll reach a house-sized boulder. Turn right on the path that immediately begins to switchback up toward Monkey Face. When you reach the top, stay on the main path which sort of rounds back in the direction of the parking area. There are a lot of faint eroded trails at this part and the signage gets weird, so it’s easy to take the wrong one, but you’ll figure it out quickly. Look for the steep, switchbacking staircases. Some people find this descent sketchy, so be careful! The parking area and the bridge you crossed earlier will be in sight nearly the whole time you descend. When you reach the base, return as you came.

Never not the craziest sighting.


Idiot business


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The pain and fear and rage I feel over all of this is coming from some place deeper than I think I have ever felt. Proof of my white privilege, for real. It feels like it's being scraped from the bottom of another Me light years away. I'm so worried about my Mexican family members who travel across the border, legally, every day to work or hang out with family. I'm thinking about my friends in Portland who weren't born in the US and how scared they are to leave the country to visit their families. I'm thinking about the beautiful people I've met through @UnlikelyHikers who came here by themselves or with their families for that American Dream thing and, oh god, I want that to be real for them. I want them to have that so badly. These words fall so short. #NoBanNoWall #MyAmerica #ImWithYou

A post shared by Jenny Bruso (@unlikelyhikers) (@jennybruso) on

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