Such Great Heights | Smith Rock State Park, OR


Climbing, of all sorts, has been a passion of mine since I was a bucktoothed tot. There’s something so tempting, so eerily inviting, about a tall swaying tree or a vertical juggy cliff face. At some point in my more mature years I came to the conclusion that ropes might be a good idea and abracadabra I suddenly became a rock climber. I’ve never had the time to fully invest in being the bad-ass crag chick that I’d like to be, but over the past 4 or so years I’ve tested my skills (and guts) on some of Oregon’s best kept secrets. From the ever inviting lakeside routes in Ashland, to the more daunting multi-pitch towers of Greensprings — I thought I’d seen it all.

Then I went to Smith Rock.

Holy rock climbing dreams come true, this high desert wonderland practically brought me to my knees. With over 1,000 routes (trad+sport), overnight camping, breathtaking scenery and the longest routes my virgin semi-callused hands have ever touched, I was in paradise. Just 25 minutes outside of Bend, OR, Smith Rock State Park is a local favorite for all things weekend warrior. There’s endless winding hiking trails, virtually zero approach to the crags, and an abundance of rock loving, gnar seeking, climber folk.

When you first arrive at the park, you’ll find yourself across the river from the main climbing area. Not to fret, there is a well marked trail that will spit you out pretty much anywhere you want to go. One really nifty feature about Smith Rock is that there are a couple great entry level climbing walls— which are ideal if you need practice cleaning routes or making anchors. My favorite spot for this is right below the Bivouac campsite, before you cross the river. There is even a ladder on the back side of the rock, to aide with top roping. If your ready for something more advance, you can find some pretty great introductory multi-pitch climbs as well!

Given the enormity of climbing possibilities, I would urge you to make this a 2-3 day trip. Even if you don’t have the strength/endurance to climb the whole time, the trails are great for running and hiking! Making this park even more accessible, there is camping available (info at the bottom of this post) and a grocery store/restaurants nearby. Plus, after the sun goes down, you will find yourself in the company of some pretty awesome flannel wearing, van-life living, callus handed climber friends. Don’t be afraid to mingle 🙂 Exciting side note: Prepare yourself to be surrounded by adorable puppies!

Some things that I HIGHLY recommend— One, buy yourself a guidebook if no one in your group has been to Smith before. Two, please have at least some basic climbing knowledge. This is not the place to decide you are afraid of heights! Three, bring tape to protect your fingers from the rock (super sharp volcanic tuff). Four, plan for the weather. It can be both extremely cold and extremely hot so make sure you come prepared with both sunscreen and extra layers for night/morning.

Want to give this adventure a shot? (logistical information)

Location: Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne, Oregon

Best Time to Go: Anytime it’s not raining or snowing or ungodly hot (Fall and Spring)

Where to sleep: Bivouac (The Bivy) Campground, $5 per night (first come, first serve)
*This campsite is AMAZING. It has full amenities (warm showers, flushing toilets), beautiful lawn for tents, and even a bouldering structure! The park is just a 10 minute walk from here.

Other notes:

  • Bring a guidebook! There are a trillion routes!
  • There is a nice size grocery store in Terrebonne, just 5 minutes away! No need for freeze dried meals 🙂
  • PLEASE don’t die. This isn’t the place to learn how to climb, unless you’ve got a kick ass instructor!
  • Most of the routes are exposed to the blistering heat of the day. Bring sun protection and lots of agua.

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