Smith Rock

February hasn’t been too rainy here this year, honestly. A couple chilly cold days and a lot of foggy mornings, but nothing like the gray days I’m used to, or the snowstorm last year! Despite the sun it’s been a stressful month so we were thrilled to escape for a weekend to Central Oregon.

We stayed in Bend, but the focal point of the trip was to visit Smith Rock State Park, somewhere I’d never been before. The park is hugely popular with rock climbers, with the harder climbs attracting people from all over the U.S. Our visit fell on a gorgeous sunny day, but we didn’t join the pack of climbers this time. Instead we took a hike in the sunshine, up in the rocks then back along the river. We even spotted a river otter frolicking about! We stood and watched his antics for a bit, then he paused to look right at us and say hi!

The hike we chose was only 4 miles long, but the altitude gain made it pretty difficult on my 26 week (6 mo) belly and lungs! I’ve never hiked so slowly in my life! I suppose the trail name, Misery Ridge, could have been a hint. But we eventually made it to the top, and the way down and back along the river was much more relaxing.  All along the way I spotted tiny climbers on the rock faces.

The high desert landscape was beautiful, full of pinon pines and juniper trees, sagebrush and red rocks. It was a refreshing change from the mossy wet climate of Portland, and I couldn’t help but be reminded by camping trips in Utah and Colorado when I was growing up. I love that dry desert air!

Far off on the horizon the Cascade Mountains rose up, with seven of their snowy peaks visible. This time of year is usually quite cold and snowy in Central Oregon, so this early spring is unusual. By summer the rocks are scorching hot in the sun, so this temperate weekend was a perfect introduction.

If You Go:

Bend is a roughly 3.5 hr drive from Portland, and Smith Rock is just north, near Terrebonne, Oregon, about 20 minutes from Bend.

Here is a list of great hikes in the park, or a pdf map with some trails listed. We did the loop containing Misery Ridge Trail, then Mesa Verde Trail connecting to River Trail.