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New Smith Rock welcome center & trail open June 1 (2013)

Smith Rock State Park Welcome Center

Park volunteers and staff are adding the last touches to the Welcome Center yurt. The center includes a climbing display wall, traveling art show and state park brochures. Visitors can buy annual day-use parking passes and park memorabilia.

Spend your State Parks Day June 1 (free parking!) at Smith Rock State Park and drop by the Welcome Center grand opening 10 a.m.-2 p.m. See live raptors from the Sunriver Nature Center and watch a presentation about reptiles. Kids can try out new interactive exhibits and Junior Ranger activities — make a pictograph!

Arrowleaf balsamroot. Photo by Ben Hedstrom.

Arrowleaf balsamroot. Photo by Ben Hedstrom.

Park Manager Scott Brown says the center is specially designed to show off the park to visitors who aren’t able to explore the park’s rugged interior. A display presents Smith Rock’s cultural importance — the area was home to several Native American groups, later followed by settlers who came to the area in the late 1800s. Which birds, mammals and insects live here? Central Oregon is semiarid, but the landscape and topography vary dramatically within the park, as does the wildlife.

It’s easy to see which plants grow in the park. A 7,000-square-foot native plant garden displays more than 20 different plant varieties found in the area, including desert paintbrush, arrowleaf balsamroot, yellow desert daisy and purple sage.

The Welcome Center and native garden development was a grassroots effort led by local businesses and park visitors. The center will be open Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Volunteers can answer your park questions.

Summit Loop Trail ranger-led hike starts at 12 p.m.

The Summit Loop Trail descends (or climbs depending on your outlook!) about 900 feet from the trail summit to its base. Photo courtesy of the Deschutes Land Trust.

The Summit Loop Trail descends about 900 feet from the summit to the trail base. Photo courtesy of the Deschutes Land Trust.

A new trail opens at Smith Rock State Park and you’re invited to the inaugural hike June 1. The 2.1-mile Summit Loop Trail connects the River, Wolf Tree and Burma Road trails to form an 8-mile loop around the whole park. The hike begins at the Welcome Center.  Wear sturdy hiking boots, bring plenty of water and plan on a four-hour trek to complete the entire loop.

The trail is open to hikers and mountain bikers (closed to horses). The elevation reaches 3,500 feet at the summit, and a short side trip off the main trail leads to a viewpoint that overlooks the Crooked River National Grassland, the Cascade Mountains and the surrounding high desert. The trail route protects native plants and animals—especially nesting raptors— but still lets hikers experience this fragile ecosystem.

Most of the trail is within the boundaries of the park, but parts of it pass through public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, as well as private land owned by Ranch at the Canyons and permanently protected by the Deschutes Land Trust.  Please respect the property of our partners.

Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock trail map
Smith Rock State Park dedicates new trail, visitor center on Oregon State Parks Day (photos, video) May 25, The Oregonian