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Misery Ridge 

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Misery Ridge

A classic hike for visitors, or to save for when the crowds subside

Touted as the home of sport climbing in the United States, Smith Rock State Park is a gem of Central Oregon proportions. The aptly named Crooked River carved a natural moat between the vertically fissured canyons and the vast and towering faces of ancient molten ash known as welded tuff. Painted in hues of orange and purple with a snow-capped horizon and azure blue skies, Smith Rock is postcard perfect. At 4 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain, this popular circumnavigation of the park should be on everyone's tick list. Hint: Try it during the week, and after Labor Day, when the crowds thin out.

Getting There:

Head north of Bend on Hwy. 97, turning right at the light in the hamlet of Terrebonne. Don't let the cute and fuzzy faces of local alpacas distract you from your goal. A single day-use or annual Oregon State Parks pass is required for car parking within park boundaries, available at the self-service pay station at the Welcome Center.

The Crooked River from Smith Rock. - DAVID SWORD
  • David Sword
  • The Crooked River from Smith Rock.

Grab your lunch, your hiking poles (you might want them for the descent), fill your water bottle and head down toward the River Trail. Your loop intersects with the Mesa Verde Trail and finishes on Misery Ridge. Although either direction is feasible, a clockwise rotation is a personal favorite.

Go left after crossing the footbridge. Take a moment or two and watch rock climbers crimp, jam and pull up the edgy and pocketed climbs of the Dihedrals area, where Smith Rock route developer Alan Watts and crew created rock climbs that became world famous.

Look for river otters, osprey and golden eagles as the River Trail circuitously rounds many more outcroppings. Patience is rewarded as you finally gain sight of Central Oregon's most famous grinning simian. Towering hundreds of feet above the river, the freestanding Monkey Face is a geologic marvel, and home to both serious rock climbs and slack-lining. Take the Mesa Verde trail which leads you to the base of the Monkey and to Misery Ridge. The view from the top of Misery Ridge trail is nothing short of spectacular. If you dare, wander on toward Monkey Face.

Monkey Face at Smith Rock. - DAVID SWORD
  • David Sword
  • Monkey Face at Smith Rock.

On any given day you may see climbers ascending, or slack-liners walking across the expanse toward the mouth cave. The decent from the top is challenging, but worth every step you take back toward the footbridge and parking lot.

Commitment level: moderate

Sweat level: moderate

Stoke level: full gas

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