Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon

Smith Rock is one of my favorite places in the entire Bend area ~ & luckily, I live just 20 minutes away from this gorgeous Oregon state park.  Nearly every time friends come to town for a visit: I take them here!  And so far, it’s never disappointed.  While Smith is a popular rock climbing destination, there’s so much else to do there, including some amazing hiking.  In this “Travel Guide for Smith Rock,” we’ll learn what makes this such a special spot, take a look at plenty of photos, learn where to take the best photos, & find out what hikes are best for all fitness levels….& more!

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Top of Misery Ridge

My friend Cami & I at the very top of the Misery Ridge hike at Smith Rock! Amazing views from up here…

Author’s Note: As I was researching for this article, I was sad to see that many of Google’s top posts were written by people who *seem* to have never been there. One dead give-away to me as a writer, is that many posts have no personal photos ~ they’re only using Getty Images. So here, I’m including MY photos that I’ve personally taken, as I think it’s important to differentiate an article written by an actual local, vs. one potentially generated by A.I.

Welcome to Smith Rock + Map!

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Let my friends & I take you on a tour of Smith Rock!

Smith Rock State Park

Brasada Ranch

SCP Hotel Redmond

Crooked River Cabins

FAQ about Visiting Smith Rock

  • How Far is Smith Rock from Bend, Oregon?  About 35 minutes ~ but it depends which part of Bend. From hotels like Tetherow & LOGE Bend, which are located on Century Drive, it’s about a 45-minute drive. From hotels like Riverhouse on the Deschutes, which is located further north, it’s about 30 minutes.
  • What Makes Smith Rock So Special?  In short: its beauty. In a state filled with beautiful places, Smith Rock still stands out ~ mainly for its soaring red rocks that jut up dramatically over a curving river (called “Crooked River”). These dramatic rocks are also a major rock climbing destination, & that’s probably what it’s most famous for today: being a rock climber’s mecca. But there’s also plenty of hiking trails here, & great vistas for photographers.
  • Is Smith Rock Pet-Friendly?  YES!! Leashed dogs are allowed at Smith Rock.  I bring my dog Charlie here almost every time I visit….she loves swimming in Crooked River, especially on a hot day.

Is Smith Rock in Oregon Pet-Friendly? Girl Who Travels the World

Charlie about to take a dip in the Crooked River!

  • Is There a Fee to Enter Smith Rock State Park?  There’s not technically a fee to enter the park. You could just drive through, take some photos, & be on your way. But if you want to park: there’s a $5 Day Use Pass that you’ll need to buy & display in your windshield. These can be purchased at kiosks near the Visitor’s Center/restrooms.
  • Are There Bathrooms at Smith Rock? YES. And they’re fairly nice ones, located right by the Visitor’s Center & kiosks where you’ll buy your parking pass.
  • Where are the Best Views at Smith Rock/Best Places to Take Photos?  Honestly, some of the VERY best views are located right at the Visitor’s Center/start of the hike. You’re essentially on top of a ridge, looking down towards Crooked River & across to soaring red rocks. You even get “peek-a-boo” views of mountains like Jefferson & the Sisters from certain vantage points. I think this is important for people to know, as not everyone is able to hike down the steep hill that takes you into the park. I also love the views from the top of the Misery Ridge hike (more on that below) ~ especially at sunset! You get panoramic views of all of Central Oregon’s main mountains: from Bachelor to the Sisters.

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

This is one of the best photos I’ve ever taken at Smith, & it was taken right at the top, before you descend the hill into the park. ANYONE can get to this spot!!

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

This photo was taken RIGHT behind the Visitor’s Center, just a 1-minute walk from our car. And it’s one of the reasons I love Smith Rock: there’s a HUGE pay-off, right at the start!

  • How Steep is the Hill You Need to Go Down to Reach All the Trails?  Pretty darn steep. When my parents visited Smith Rock, the hill was steep enough ~ they didn’t feel comfortable going down it. If you have bad knees, weak ankles, or just don’t like climbing hills: then it’s probably not for you. But the bummer about this is, there are SO many flat walks located right along the river here! So if you can endure about 10 minutes of pain (coming back up), then give it a try.

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

This is a photo I posted on Instagram of my Aunt Maggie coming back UP the steep hill that takes you down into the park. You’ve got to be able to get up & down this to enjoy hiking & walks along the river!

Travel Guide for Smith Rock by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

But once you get DOWN the hill at Smith Rock, there are flat trails that follow the river in every direction!

  • We Don’t Want to Hike at Smith ~ Is a Drive Still Worth It?  I’ve taken a few groups there who weren’t able to hike: everyone still LOVES Smith Rock. Bring a picnic & have an incredibly scenic lunch on benches right by the Visitor’s Center. And if you’re a photographer, walk along the rim & you’ll find plenty of perches for photos. Walking across the entire rim of Smith Rock is about a mile total (if you make it all the way to the east side, where there’s another parking lot).
  • What are Your Favorite Hikes at Smith Rock?  Misery Ridge is the CLASSIC Smith Rock hike, as it takes you way up to the top of the park, looking across to the incredible Cascade Mountains. But this hike is a bun-burner! And not fit for everyone, as it’s on a narrow, steep trail (if you’re afraid of heights, this is not a good hike for you). When I took my five best childhood friends here, only two made it all the way to the top. The others headed down towards the river, & did flatter walks there, which worked out well. If you do the full Misery Ridge loop, it’s about 5 miles. But if you just head up to the top & come back down ~ it’s 3.7 miles & can take just over an hour!

How Hard is Misery Ridge Hike at Smith Rock? Girl Who Travels the World

My friend Elisa on the lower part of the climb up Misery Ridge…

How Hard is Misery Ridge Hike at Smith Rock? Girl Who Travels the World

And my friend Cami & I close to the top ~ you can see how high above the river we are here.

  • Where to Get More Information about Rock Climbing at Smith Rock? Take a look at this breakdown of the different climbing areas at Smith Rock, or if you’re looking for guided services: check out Smith Rock Climbing Guides
  • We’re Super Hot after Hiking Smith Rock ~ Where to Cool Off??! There’s not a ton of shade here, so it’s likely you may want to jump in a river after visiting! Some of the closest water spots include Steelhead Falls in Terrebonne, 25-minutes west of Smith Rock. Or if you’re staying in Redmond, head to Cline Falls Recreation Area, where it’s easy to hop in the Deschutes & take a dip. If you’re headed back to Bend, grab your floaties & do an afternoon river float to cool off ~ or head up Century Drive towards some of Bend’s best lakes: like Sparks, Todd, & Elk Lake. Or Devils Lake if you really want to cool off (water is freezinnnggg here)!!

How to Cool Off after Hiking in Bend? Guide to Floating the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

My friends & I started our day hiking at Smith Rock….then ended by floating the river in Bend!

  • What are the Closest Nice Hotels to Smith Rock?  Crooked River Ranch Cabins ($207+/night) are located about 25 minutes north-west of Smith Rock, a way’s off the highway. You get lots of open space here, but it’s far from town. Brasada Ranch ($559+) is about 20 minutes south of Smith Rock (my parents LOVE staying here); rooms are huge & well-appointed, all with decks & views of the mountains. Pools, golf, horseback riding, hiking, & dining is all found on-site. In Redmond, the Lodge at Eagle Crest ($176+) is great for families, as there are several pools, bike rentals, hiking & biking trails. For a more romantic option in downtown Redmond, close to the airport: try the well-designed SCP Redmond Hotel, with its gorgeous rooftop bar, & amazingly hip, brick-walled lobby bar & restaurant. This is a great spot for adults ~ not as great for kids.

Where to Stay by Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Brasada Ranch

Sprawling Brasada Ranch is one of the closest hotels to Smith Rock: located 20 minutes south, by Powell Butte. Great for families.

  • Do You Need a Car to Visit Smith Rock? Yes. There are a few tours that may take you here, but in general: everyone’s got their own ride. Smith Rock is located pretty out of the way, & far enough from Redmond & Bend that you really need your own car to get there. If you’re flying into the Redmond Airport, this is a great place to rent a car, as it’s such a small, easy little airport to navigate. And rental cars are located just a 2-minute walk from Baggage Claim.

Just be sure to rent in advance, as it’s always cheaper.

Photos of Smith Rock by Bend, Oregon

Travel Guide for Smith Rock by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Another shot right by the Visitor’s Center. You don’t need to hike to great shots!

Travel Guide for Smith Rock by Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

The best time to see wildflowers at Smith Rock is in May, when I took this photo.

If you want to see wildflowers at Smith Rock, visit from late April through May.

Rock Climbing at Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

As you’re walking around, keep your eyes peeled for rock climbers scaling incredibly steep wall faces. It can get crazy!! Photo by 57hours.

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

When my brother & family came to town, 8 of us AND 3 dogs took the river trail to the LEFT, & enjoyed a nice wide, flat walking area.

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

These views never get old…

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

When my Bend friends & I hit the park, we typically park at the far EAST lot, which is always quieter ~ & take routes on the east side of the park.

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

But this is the main trail DOWN. Just past the grassy area is a bridge that takes you across the river. After the bridge, taking a right UP leads you to Misery Ridge.

Misery Ridge Hike at Smith Rock

Photos of Misery Ridge Hike at Smith Rock, Girl Who Travels the World

On the way up Misery Ridge, you get amazing views of the winding river to the east.

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Guide to a Perfect 3-Day Weekend in Bend, Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World, Smith Rock

And if you’re going up at sunset, it’s even prettier.

Photos of Misery Ridge Hike at Smith Rock, Girl Who Travels the World

View from the very top.

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

And views in every direction!

Sunset Views from Smith Rock State Park, Girl Who Travels the World

Keep heading west at the top of Misery Ridge, & you’ll reach this viewpoint. The mountains in the distance (from left) are: Bachelor, Broken Top, South Sister, Middle & North Sister.

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon

That’s all for now on Smith Rock!  Suttle Lake & Elk Lake are two of the most popular spots to cool off during the summertime, & you can rent paddle boards at both.  Suttle Lake is up just past Sisters, on the way back to Portland ~ while Elk is closer to Bend & Sunriver.

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: Where to Paddle Board by Bend, Oregon

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Photo Gallery of Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

Travel Guide for Smith Rock in Oregon, Girl Who Travels the World

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