Submitted by: Peter Franzen
DescriptionSmith Rock is Oregonís premier rock climbing destination, and one of the best sport climbing areas in the United States. This world-renowned sport climbing mecca has more than once been at the focal point of the climbing world. Extensive development took place in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s by locals and international climbers alike, who put up scores of classic climbs on the tuff and basalt cliffs; development continues to this day with new moderates and cutting-edge routes going up each year. Ranging from classic beginner routes to hardcore testpieces on a wide variety of rock, there is truly something here for everyone. Although best known for its sport climbing traditional climbers can find plenty to be excited about here as well.
Located in the high desert in central Oregon, Smith Rock State Parkís cliffs and hillsides take a commanding presence over the surrounding terrain. The main cliffs are made of volcanic welded tuff, and surrounding bands of columnar basalt lie above the winding Crooked River.
Smith Rock is a perfect weekend getaway for residents of the Portland area as well as a worthy destination for anybody exploring the Westís climbing. The prominent walls overlooking the Crooked River are home to many of Smith Rockís most famous routes, but for those seeking some solitude and adventure there is plenty to be found on the back side or among the basalt columns in the Upper and Lower gorge. Monkey Face, perhaps the parkís most recognizable feature, sits proudly on the back side of Smith Rock with spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains and the arid landscape below.
It takes years to become familiar with all of the areas at Smith, and there is enough climbing here to allow even the locals to find new favorites every season. There are over 1,500 routes at Smith but it's easy to get stuck in a cycle where you only climb the same 50 classics each season; a little exploring here to the less-traveled areas goes a long way.
Approaches are generally short and straightforward from the main parking lot, and a well-maintained system of trails provides easy access to all of the parkís areas. Please donít stray from the established trails; the visual and environmental impact of people scrambling up the hillsides can be enormous.
There is water available at the parking lot and a drinking fountain at the bridge, although they both get turned off during the cold months. I've heard that the water from the sinks in the bathrooms isn't potable so bring your own to be on the safe side if the fountains are shut off.
Restrooms are available in the main parking lot, at the bridge, and the Phoenix Composting Toilet is conveniently located within sprinting distance of the popular walls on the front side of the park. Please respect those around you, keep your pets under control, and pack out everything that you bring in.
Getting ThereSmith Rock State Park is located in the town of Terrebonne, Oregon. Take Smith Rock Drive East off of Hwy. 97 in Terrebonne, then take a left on 17th Street, a right on Wilcox Ave, and finally a left on Crooked River Drive to the main parking lot. It's pretty easy to find, but here's a map just in case.
Driving time to Smith Rock State Park is approximately 6-7 hours from Seattle, 2.5-3 hours from Portland, and around 30 minutes from Bend. The closest airport is 10 miles away in Redmond, OR.
WeatherCurrent weather conditions at Smith Rock
Due to its location in Oregon's high desert the weather at Smith is typically dry and sunny. Generally there are very few days of the year where climbing is out of the question at Smith; soaking rain is rare, although the heat can be oppressive during the summer.
The best times to climb at Smith are the Spring and Fall. Summers are hot and it's not uncommon for the thermometer to soar above 100F in the sun, and in winter there are plenty of near to sub-freezing dry days for your hardcore redpoint attempts.
Standard desert rules apply to camping too: it gets surprisingly cold at night so be sure to pack that down jacket.
Camping & FeesThere is a $5.00/car fee to use Smith Rock that can be paid for at the kiosk in the main parking lot. For $30.00 you can buy a season pass at Redpoint Climber's Supply in town.
There are two options for camping at Smith. For a fee ($5/person/night) you can camp at the Smith Bivy area which is adjacent to the park-- look for the sign just before the main parking lot. There are bathrooms, water, and a cooking area; no fires are allowed. Be aware this is tent camping only - you cannot sleep in your vehicles.
The second option is the "Grasslands" campground (officially known as Skull Hollow). To get there take either Wilcox Avenue or Smith Rock Way East until you reach Lone Pine Road-- take a left. After a few miles of cow pastures look for a sign on the left for Skull Hollow (Here's a Google Maps link with directions from the park). If you hit Hwy. 26 you've gone too far. Skull Hollow is a free BLM camping area with basic port-a-potties and camp fires are allowed. There is no water available here so stock up beforehand. It's first-come first-served and can fill up on busy weekends.
[UPDATE] Skull Hollow will no longer be a free campground as of May 15, 2009. This is ostensibly due to the less desirable characters that stay for long periods of time at the campground (no, I'm not talking about trad climbers!); there have been increasing amounts of gear theft as of late, and the popularity of the site is beginning to take a toll on the facilities. There will be a $5 per night charge, and a 14-day limit for all campers.
A Brief Note About The RoutesSmith is a sport climber's paradise in many ways, but there are some key factors that must be kept in mind for a fun trip.
First-timers will undoubtedly notice something strange about the first bolt on many of the routes: it is often 15 feet off the ground, and there will likely be some committing moves leading up to it. This goes for routes of almost any grade, from the 5.8 trade routes to the 5.13 and .14 projects. Many of these routes begin on hillsides as well which makes a pre-clip tumble a very, very bad idea.
Barbecue The Pope is a perfect example of a 5.10c that has some unprotected committing moves down low.
Do not hesitate to bring a stick-clip down into the park with you, and prepare to be somewhat humble about the climbing. People do occasionally take some ugly falls before the first bolt has been clipped on popular routes, which can easily be avoided by pre-clipping the 'draw.
You don't often see routes here with bolts every 5 ft. as you might at other areas, and while it may be intimidating at first you'll learn to love it as you spend more time here. If it's your first time at Smith it wouldn't be a bad idea to start off slowly and try a handful of routes a grade or 3 below what you're used to climbing, just to make sure you're comfortable.
GuidebooksThe Smith Bible (aka Rock Climbing Smith Rock State Park) by Allan Watts is the best book out for Smith and one of the finest guidebooks anywhere. It is the second edition of Watts' Smith guide, and it contains an incredible amount of history, photos, topos, and beta.
The more compact Smith Rock Select is a great short list of the mega-classics here. Great pictures, clear topos, and good descriptions make for easy routefinding, but it's pretty brief in scope and is by no means comprehensive. If you're just passing through Smith for a weekend you could easily get by on this book alone.
Both books are listed in the Books For This Area link on this page.
Food & SuppliesThe town of Terrebonne has a decent gocery store, gas stations, and even a decent espresso stand (around the back of Thriftway). Not to be missed is the climber-owned Terrebonne Depot for food, wine, beer, and cocktails; it's hard to beat a buffalo cheeseburger and a beer here after a day in the park.
Redmond is a 10 minute drive away and has a few decent breakfast places as well as some other hotels, fast food, grocery stores, and dinner options. The increasingly cosmopolitan city of Bend has a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and brewpubs that cater to everyone from the country club crowd to the local hippies.
Redpoint Climber's Supply is a great shop to pick up all your climbing and camping needs in Terrebonne.
sunset at Smith
sunset at smith
Topping out on Snibble Tower's 4-star 5.9 pitch. 300 feet of 4th class choss remain to the walk off. Shadows of Snibble Tower (left) and Smith Rock Summits (right) visible below.
Smith Rock and the Crooked River from Koala Rock's Round River route
enroute to Smith Rock/The Grasslands
"The Grasslands" or Skull Hollow
Approaching at sunset.
Sue coming off 3rd pitch of Super Slab on the Red Wall.
Sue getting ready to rap off above Ginger Snap.
After the onsight send of the monkey highline
The Monkey Face...pretty intimidating, but an extraordinary route...
Bouldering at Smith Rock, OR
"Grasslands" campground (officially known as Skull Hollow) is complete with picnic tables and large iron fire pits at most campsites. Good place to camp if you like to hang out with a nice fire under the moon after a long day of climbing.
Looking toward the pass.
A Little Seduction 5.12a, in the Monument Area. Really unique route: severely technical on "marble" rock.
Santa on the Monkey Highline
Unknown climber at smith rock... what route is this?
the nice view from the crags...
oh... thats why its called the monkey face...
Smith Rocks quality stone.
Bob Horan at Smith.
Following pitch 1 of Chimney De Chelly on Mesa Verde Wall. Nice line but doesn't quite measure up quality-wise to the other trad 10- lines here (Trezlar & Tale).
View from the Marsupials
Smith Rock on a beautiful October afternoon.
East face of the Monkey with Mt. Jefferson to the west.
The river, amazing setting. Summer 2003.
Another of the river, 2003.
The classic "first view of Smith Rock" shot. Summer 2003.
Monkey Face, Summer 2003. Couple climbers going up and I think one in the mouth.
Try the Inversion IPA when in the area.
Photo by Blitzo.
Ship rock reflected in the Crooked River
Magestic Smith Rock with the Cascades in the background
Smith Rock State Park and Crooked River. View from approach. 3/2009
Photo: Corey Gargano
Wild creature at the Base of The monument area
Smith in all its glory.
Aldo B. climbing in Smith Rock area
After days of smokey fires, the rain came and cleared things up. A great view from the Monkeys mouth.
Mid Line. Feb-2012. Smith Rock, OR.
King swing, Smith Rock, OR.
He became one with smith rock
The Other Side of Smith Rock
Monkey Face rap, Smith Rock
Smith Rock Group
Trail to Monkey Face
It may "never rain at Smith". but it does occasionally snow there...The bodies on the bridge are the AMGA (guides in training)
Walking back to the car after a day of climbing.
CommentsMonomaniac Nov 29, 2006
It seems to me like a lot of folks are posting routes that they haven't acutally done (or maybe a few folks are doing it a lot). Perhaps that is standard practice, but it seems a bit dubious to me. If all users are interested in is a regurgitation of the guidebook, why not just get the guidebook? It seems like the real value in a site like this is that you can get first-hand beta from someone who has actually done the route. Even though the distinguished Mr. Watts has done almost all of the routes he described, his descriptions are at least 14 years old, so again, this site can provide the benifit of up-to-date beta.
Maybe I'm off-base. But if you haven't done a route you are posting, at least mention that information in the description, or better, wait for someone who has done it to add the route.
mschlocker Jan 12, 2007
I agree. Please only post on routes you have actually done, or at least let the reader know you have not actually done it. I got screwed on a crack with "consistently tight hands" once. I got there with nothing larger than a #2 camalot. The route would not protect with anything but 2 #3 camalots as I found out on a return trip. A lot of swearing ensued and I could not send the route. Funny thing is the handjam off the ground was the only tight one on the entire route.
Peter Franzen Apr 14, 2008
Apparently the temperature is low enough at night that they have shut off the water fountain at the bridge again. Lots of people were running out of water this weekend, so be sure to fill up at the parking lot before heading down.
1Eric Rhicard Jun 15, 2008
Just got back from three days here. What a blast! This might be the birthplace of sport climbing in the U.S. but it is no place for folks that can't boulder 10-20 feet up to get the first bolt (unless you have a big stick clip). You generally will not find bolts every 6-7 feet either so think of it as old school sport. Only did one trad route due to limited time but look forward to a return visit as there are some great looking corners and we did not even get to the lower gorge.
Wolfgang Braun Oct 14, 2008
Temps are getting down in the 20's at night. Be sure to bring many warm clothes. Also, the water in the canyon is shut-off for winter, so you will need to fill at the bathroom, or bring your own water.
SKI Jul 10, 2010
Camped under the stars on Smith Rock road and left my REI Kilo Plus sleeping bag AND a Patagonia down Parka on the side of the road. No idea how it happened. Has anyone picked this up? 7754275565. Help!
Man I'm a moron
CTYankee Aug 4, 2011
Parking fee has increased. I think it is $5 per day now. If you plan to stay a week or visit ofetn, buyt the annual pass. I like to get a two year pass and do it with another party - even more of a discount for the second 2 year pass.
Smith Rock Cabins Feb 23, 2012
Take note these Cabins are close by and offer a discount to climbers, bikers and hikers.
JasonJNSmith Feb 13, 2013
I'm planning a trip for 4/4 thru 4/18 of this year. I was just wondering if anyone had any comments on the weather/temps that time of year.
Max Tepfer Feb 16, 2013
April can be awesome. It can also be rainy if you get unlucky, spring being a wet time of year around here. With two weeks, you'll almost certainly get at least four or more good days.
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