This Central Oregon State Park Puts National Parks to Shame With Its Beauty

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you and it helps support our future adventures.

Oregon, with all of its natural beauty, is famously home to only a single national park: Crater Lake. While Crater Lake certainly is deserving of this distinction, there are plenty more locations around the state that could also be elevated to this lofty status.

One of those areas in Central Oregon is a state park with some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery in the entire state.

Visitors flock here for its basalt cliffs rising dramatically from the river below, its world-class climbing opportunities, and lung-busting trails that take you up and over some of the most rugged terrain in the region.

This place is, of course, Smith Rock State Park.

Smith Rock State Park, OR
Photo Credit:

Exploring the Park

Smith Rock State Park isn’t a huge park but the space it covers is absolutely packed with stunning natural sights. As soon as you pull into a parking spot (if you can find one!) you’re treated to stunning views of the basalt cliffs that rise up dramatically from the Crooked River below.

Rim Rock Trail

The easiest way to take in some of the best views of the park is along the Rim Rock Trail, which runs parallel to the day-use parking lot. This short loop trail offers up the iconic views of the Crooked River and the stunning park cliffs. If you only have a short time at the park or are in need of an easy hike, then this one is a must-do.

River Trail

The beautiful Canyon and River Trail on the Crooked River in Smith Rock State Park in Oregon
Photo Credit:

The River Trail runs along the base of the cliffs and offers bottom-up views of the towering rock walls and climbers high overhead. After a short but steep descent down to the river bottom, you’ll pass over a small footbridge and can hike the trail as an out-and-back or as a more challenging trip up and over Misery Ridge.

Along the way, you’ll be able to take in iconic views of the river, where you can keep an eye out for otters and the eagles that nest in the cliffs above.

Misery Ridge Trail

Hiking up Misery Ridge in Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne Oregon
Photo Credit:

Perhaps the most iconic trail within the park, Misery Ridge, takes you up and over the cliffs and puts you front and center with the stunning Monkey Face rock feature.

The trail leading up to the ridge is famously steep and every year catches hikers off guard who aren’t prepared for the heat in the canyon and the ruggedness of the trail. Once on top, you can take in the views and go back the way you came up or continue down the backside, which connects to the river trail and back to the footbridge.

Summit Trail

Monkey Face in Smith Rock State Park, Oregon
Photo Credit:

The Summit Trail takes you out of the river canyon and up into the hills along the edge of the park’s boundary. This ridge is popular with photographers as it offers views of the rock formations in front of the Cascade Mountains, which stand off in the distance to the west.

The Summit Trail can be done as a loop starting from either the Wolf Tree Trail or River Trail, but both approaches are long and involve a lot of climbing.

The effort is worth it, though, as the views from the summit are otherworldly.

Camping at the Park

The only camping available within the park is at the Bivouac Campground, which his near the main parking area. This tent-only campground is a favorite with climbers and is usually filled with an interesting crowd.

If you’re looking for a slightly fancier camping setup where you can park your RV or have a campfire, then head a few miles down the road to the Skull Hollow campground.

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest