Oh Sweet Misery ~ Smith Rock State Park, OR

In Oregon’s high desert, near Terrebonne, striking spires rise up from the Crooked River Canyon. Crafted from molten rock and subsequent flowing water, these basalt tufts have been sculpted into what is now known as Smith Rock State Park. This striking setting draws cyclists, hikers, and photographers, and in the mid-1980’s gained the attention of rock climbers, both local and international. Today more than 1,000 bolted climbing routes dot the vertical basalt walls, challenging beginners and experts alike.

After seeing photos in a brochure, I knew we had to make a slight detour and stop to soak in the views and hopefully take a hike. The 3-mile Misery Ridge Trail, incorporating sections of several other trails, was the hike that would take us up high for views of the surrounding Cascades, the Crooked River, basalt tufts, and Monkey Face Rock. Monkey Face is where we hoped to catch sight of climbers perfecting their sport. Taking the route less traveled, suggested by a Ranger, was to be the easier way down a steep, rocky trail. As I watched others with small children sliding down sections of the trail in the opposite direction, I whispered a silent prayer of thanks to that Ranger.

Starting up The Chute and hiking alongside the Crooked River, both sides of the trail offer enticing views and soon we found “beginner” climbers scaling the chiseled walls. As the hike increased in elevation, Monkey Face Rock absorbed our attention as a group of four climbers clung to the vertical face, the lead climber making his way into the mouth of the big ape. After many photos we continued up Misery Ridge.

Around the backside of Monkey Face we soon realized that two climbers were pushing for the summit, high-fiving one another as they stood at the top looking out over the mountain peaks dotting the horizon. What an exhilarating feeling that must be!

We slowly picked our way down the loose, steep trail, back to The Chute, where are feet once again met level ground.

If you are in the vicinity, a visit to Smith Rock State Park should be on your list, particularly at sunset we are told, as this is the magic hour at this stop.

44 thoughts on “Oh Sweet Misery ~ Smith Rock State Park, OR

  • LuAnn I have been waiting for this post! How lucky I am to have been sitting at my computer when you hit publish. 🙂 When we went to Smith Rock I was the chaperone of a young climbing team of which our son was a member. He was all of 12 and I , nor he , had climbed very long. I will admit that seeing one’s little guy on such cliffs had my maternal instinct running on overdrive.
    Things have changed a lot over the years. Now I look at your stunning photos and wish I had been there in my more confident climbing days. A lovely post. Thank you for taking me back to Smith Rock.

    • My pleasure Sue. I can’t imagine the feeling of watching your young son climbing at Smith Rock. I must admit, as I was watching those four tackle Monkey Face, I wished I had been a climber. Getting to the top must have been such a thrill. The hiking alone along the steep trails was great fun!

  • Smith Rocks is probably my most favorite place near Bend! Someone told us that there are otters in the river, though we never saw them. When we spent a month in Bend a couple of years ago we visited Smith Rocks 3 times!!! We never saw anyone on Monkey Face though…great photos!

    • Thanks Lisa! Smith Rock is beautiful. Wish we had been able to be there at sunset. We were told it is magical at that time of day.

  • What a great park! I love all the climbers on the Monkey Face. I guess it is all right to make a train and follow that closely behind each other. I would worry about getting hit if the person in front of me slipped back. I enjoyed seeing the climbers up close and that one in the mouth! That is a very interesting rock and very appropriately named! So cool! Glad you made the detour to get in a little hiking adventure:) Love the header!

    • Thanks Pam. Smith Rock is such a beautiful little slice of country. The rock formations are wonderful and the Crooked River is lovely. Although there is not much hiking here, the trails are interesting and get your heart pounding.

  • Misery Ridge — hmmm….is that in reference to the steep elevation gain? Looks like you guys climbed a lot in a short distance! Such a cool hike — and I really appreciate those great tips about less traveled trails that are actually better routes. Spectacular scenery and photography!

    • I am guessing that the name Misery Ridge does have something to do with the steep climb to the ridge. We did gain a bit of elevation very quickly and the terrain was quite loose in spots coming down, but the views were fabulous.

  • This was definitely worth you detour LuAnn! What a stunning scenery and great hike. Definitely looks like a steep one as well from you photos. Must have been pretty amazing to study the climbers working their way up Monkey Face. Lovely post!

    • This one was definitely worth a detour. The views absolutely beautiful and the hiking was wonderful. The climbers were the bonus!

      • You’re brave enough to tackle that nerve-wracking stuff (caves and steep trails). Me, I’m too lazy and chicken for that sort of excitement. But more power to ya!!!

  • Lu & Terry, We haven’t been commenting on your postings lately, but want you to know we are still very excited each time we read a new one. Your camper sure seems to be a roomy one and as Gayl always says, “Outside of our trailer is really our living room anyway.” At the rate you seem to be going along, Alaska seems to be quite distant. Do you have an idea when Alaska will be one of your postings? We envy the two of you and your exciting postings each time.Until next time……….R&G

    • Roger & Gayl, good to hear from you. We are not planning to go to Alaska until perhaps next summer. The trip this summer was a test run with the truck camper to see if we could tolerate living in such a small space for several months before we headed to Alaska. It seems to be working, especially with one slide-out. Question for you, are you two planning to go back to San Elijo to volunteer next year, and if so, when?

  • And I thought that was you and Terry on top of the mountain! Fabulous shot of the climbers with Mt Hood (?) in the background. I would love that hike and sure one day we will just take a detour or make it a destination. For now thanks for taking us along, LuAnn.

    • I wish I had the courage to do something like that MonaLiza. If I had tried climbing at an earlier age, perhaps. How exhilarating it must be at the top!

  • Your header photo is gorgeous!
    That was wonderful of the ranger to give you some inside info on the trail. What a life saver that was. Sure looks like an awesome, invigorating hike.

    • Thanks Marsha! I am thankful for that Ranger. Doing the hike in the opposite direction would not have been near as enjoyable for me.

  • WHOA for any mountain climber that reaches the summit.
    I’d rather just be dropped off at the top to take in the view. But – that’s just me. 😉

  • Your header is FTW! I’ve only done climbing on the ones at state fairs. Ahihihi That’s when I knew that I’m just not cut off to do mountain climbing. 🙂 The hike doesn’t sound bad? especially with all those amazing views.

  • Spectacular photos! I bet you were happy to make the detour!! I never knew this place was near Bend. Now we know because of you both!!

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