Smith Rock State Park is a relatively small but very popular park located in central Oregon’s high desert. The 641-acre park has dramatic cliffs that rise above the lush Crooked River. One of the most popular hiking trails crosses the Crooked River on a bridge (top photo), and steeply climbs up over the Misery Ridge.
Smith Rock is widely considered the birthplace of modern American sport climbing. Its sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt are ideal for rock climbing. One of the most popular features is Monkey Face, a 350-foot stone pillar that’s sheer on all sides. Monkey Face contains the “Just Do It” route, the first climb in the United States rated 5.14 (extremely challenging).
The park boasts several thousand climbing routes, and many are permanently bolted. Since 1990, another 500 climbing routes have been added. We enjoyed watching the climbers risk their lives on the steep cliffs.
The park is so well known that eventually most of the world’s top climbers visit here. There were large groups of climbers all over the park, watching each other climb and giving each other advice and encouragement.
There is a nice view of the Oregon Cascades from the park summit. Here we can see Mt. Jefferson (left) and Black Butte (right) in Deschutes National Forest. We hiked to the summit of Black Butte on the day before.
Smith Rock State Park has appeared in many Hollywood films including Kevin Costner’s megaflop The Postman, John Travolta and Halle Berry’s Swordfish, and John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn’s 1975 western Rooster Cogburn.
The Crooked River is known for its waist-high grasses and abundant willow trees. Beavers were once plentiful on the river until trappers depleted them. Irrigation diversions during the summer drain most of the river downstream from the park.
Speaking of irrigation, there was a pretty horse farm on the banks of the Crooked River.
We watched intently as two helicopters danced very close together in the sky above the park. It appeared to be some kind of training mission, but we never did figure out what they were doing. Many times the helicopters appeared so close together that we thought they would collide, but fortunately they didn’t.
Theresa has always wanted to be a rock climber. One of her favorite movie scenes is the opening of “Mission: Impossible II” where Tom Cruise is climbing a steep canyon wall in the desert southwest.