Smith 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.
Smith 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.
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 & Fees
There 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 Routes
Smith 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.
The 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.
The 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.
This thin seam just right of Cruel Sister probably gets TR'ed more than any route in the gorge. Although the copious amounts of chalk on this route make it less asthetic it is still an elegent line that makes for a worthy endeavor. The crux is more cryptic than difficult and finding the right pro can be dubious too....[more]Browse More Classics in OR
By Monomaniac Administrator From: Morrison, CO 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Going to be around August 5th and 6th in smith rock . Anybody who wants to can contact me to climb those days. I climb comfortably in the mid tens on trad leads, willing to try a bit harder or climb sport too. Thanks!
A few thoughts after my first visit to Smith Rock; a full week of easy and moderate climbing sport and trad.
1. Despite what people say about the plentiful trad routes here, the place really is the domain of hard sport climbers. There are a few fun easy trad routes, but this is not a "destination crag" for easy and moderate trad single/multi-pitch. The basalt rimrock we'd hoped would yield a lot of fun short easy and moderate crack climbs looked like it hadn't been visited since 1980. Sand and cobwebs all over everything. Lots of manky fixed gear.
2. Bring a stick clip. We were told various things about why the first bolts are so high here, and the only thing that made any sense was that the authors of the routes assumed you were coming with a stick clip, so they didn't bother spending the time or money on what would normally be the first bolt of an average sport route. The idea of "spicing up" a route that was previewed on rappel, dialed on toprope, then rap bolted (what some people claimed was the reason behind the high first bolts) is the dumbest thing I think I ever heard. It's sport climbing. If you don't have a stick clip, dig around in the nooks and crannies around a project and you might find one you could borrow.
3. The place is really beautiful, and the park clearly knows what side it's bread is buttered on; the climbing community is really catered to here, which is actually a double-edged sword. Highlining seems to be all the rage at Smith, and the park apparently lets people set up highlines and leave them set up. This results in an unsightly jumble of highlines almost everywhere you look up. In one place, there were actually two long-ish highlines that crossed each other. For a tourist who just wants to enjoy the natural beauty of the place, I would think that this would be an unpleasant distraction. I suppose this has been exhaustively reviewed by park policy makers.
4. You'll read and hear people griping about the long hikes to the climbs. The only way someone could find it reasonable to complain about the approaches here is if the longest approach they'd ever done was from their car to the gym wall. The approaches here are short, pleasant, and scenic. The longer approaches are still short, and the steeper trails have actual staircases on then that often go right to the climbs.
I figure I should address the high first bolt issue:
A good deal of the first bolts were not that high when the routes were first bolted. Most of the slopes leading the base were in fact angled and over time they have eroded to flat areas. This has caused a few places to gain 5-6 FEET. A good example is the start of Darkness at Noon. I've seen it erode at least 2 feet, making it hard to reach the starting holds. Stones were actually buried below and have once more eroded.
What happens is the folks who have the wherewithal to do something about it are used to it or carry stick clips. Or adding a bolt would do little in terms of protecting a ground fall. What would need to happen is the replacing of the bottom 3 bolts, something that just inst going to happen. So either sack up or ask someone at the base for their stick clip.
Hey guys just wondering how it is to find partners around smith rock if coming up here alone from early november until early december?? busy times?? kinda slow? or what, climbing gyms to find partners? Thanks.
I know its an FS campground, does anybody know if the Skull Hollow gate is open, what with the govt. shutdown and all? If no, are there are any less populated campgrounds (I'm willing to drive more, if it means low possibility of loud parties, but the option to cook with a dutch oven)? Obviously PM with details, if the point is to keep it quiet.