After three consecutive hard, high-speed, aggressive skiing at the deep powder Mt Bachelor, my friend and I decide to take a well-deserved day off from skiing to visit a park recommended to us by a few locals.
So we drive 30 minutes north of Bend to go hiking at Smith Rock State Park.
The name of the park – frankly – leaves me feeling underwhelmed about what to expect. In addition, I have never heard of Smith Rock. How good can it be?
We start our hike on the mis-named “Misery Ridge Trail.” At the trailhead, a sign warns that hikers must be sure to bring plenty of water. I have not a drop of water with me, and my friend agrees to share his modest amount of water with me. With “Misery Ridge” awaiting us, I start off with some misgivings.
As it turns out, the trail name is a clear misnomer. Yes, there is some uphill hiking, but I’ve hiked much worse at Rocky Mountain National Park. Not only is it NOT misery, but the views are so unexpectedly spectacular that we cannot stop shooting photos of the enormous, stunning, colored canyon walls with a river winding through it. A better name for the trail: Gorgeous Ridge Trail.
The volcanic history of the park has left the area with a stunning formation of tuff and basalt rock. The park is 651 acres in size and is at an elevation of about 3,000 feet. The park climate is extremely arid.
Rather than an out-and-back spur trail hike, we opt to do a one-way loop, so as we reach the end of Misery Ridge at the jaw-dropping “Monkey Face” rock formation – a 350-foot column that juts skyward like a arm and fist, and said to be one of the most demanding rock-climbing formations in the world – we continue on the Mesa Verde Trail, and finish on the River Trail, which, as you would expect, hugs the Crooked River within the park.
All-in-all, with all the stops for photos and having our breath taken away by the stupendous views, the loop takes us about 3.5 hours to hike.
A much better name for the park – although probably already taken – would be something like GARDEN OF THE TITANS.
This link is a YouTube slide show of the photos we shot while hiking Smith Rock: