Hiking at Smith Rock — an adventure for all seasons (2015)

Smith Rock State Park in the snow

Central Oregon’s high desert beckons in winter with clear skies and crisp air. Paired with the hiking trails at Smith Rock State Park, and you’ll have a great time getting outdoors.

Smith Rock is known for majestic rock spires that rise dramatically above the winding Crooked River — a testament to the power of the area’s volcanic past. Eruptions some 30 million years ago formed the park’s unique geological formations that make for world-class rock climbing.

The park is also known for its extensive trail system. The most popular hike follows aptly named Misery Ridge past Monkey Face – a 300-foot welded tuff pillar – but the trail’s steep staircase can get slick on an icy winter day.

That’s why our favorite winter hike to get the blood pumping is the less-traveled 8-mile Summit Trail loop. It leads gradually up 1,300 feet to a viewpoint that looks over the park, as well as the snowcapped Cascades from Mount Hood to Mount Bachelor. This time of year, the park’s rocky cliffs – and sometimes the trail – may be dusted in snow.

Winter’s calm is also the perfect time to spot golden and bald eagles, prairie falcons and hares as you wind through the grasslands on the Summit Trail. For a shorter hike, we recommend an out-and-back on the flat River Trail that follows Crooked River. Look for rock climbers on Monkey Face.

Yes, the trails are less crowded in winter, but the park draws visitors year-round. We recommend that you arrive early to get a good parking spot. Before your hike, be sure to stop for a trail map in the new Welcome Center in the day-use parking area. The Welcome Center is open weekends during the winter. See the Smith Rock Climbing and Trail Guide

Summit Trail loop:  The longest loop in the park begins at the foot bridge that spans the Crooked River. Head right on the 1-mile Wolf Tree Trail, then follow the 1-mile Burma Road Trail until it connects with the 2 ½ mile Summit Trail. Complete the loop on the 2 ½ mile River Trail.

Length:  8 miles

Difficulty:  Strenuous, but not technical

Restrooms:  Yes

Fees: $5 day-use permit, available from a yellow vending machine near the park entrance.

Get thereThe park is three miles east of Terrebonne (off U.S. 97) near Redmond.  Driving Directions (click the directions link on Google maps for driving directions from your location).

Posted on January 23, 2015, in Oregon State Park trails and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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