Thanks to my friend Colleen for introducing me to the hiking trails there. Earlier this season we spent an excellent morning hiking through and around the enchanting and spectacular rock formations at Smith Rock State Park.
In geologically fascinating central Oregon, the Smith Rock complex is part of an ancient volcanic caldera that counts among the largest in the world. Things are quiet now (thankfully!), but over the millenia the Crooked River cut through layers of ancient rock and basalt flows, revealing the present dramatic rock formations known as Smith Rock tuff.
After parking (go early to get a spot) and stopping to take the requisite shots of the rock drama ahead, we drop down to the Crooked River, cross the wooden bridge, and head up the Wolf Tree Trail along the river, part of the relatively new Summit Loop Trail.
Within 10 minutes we've left the crowds behind, most of which are heading up the more popular Misery Trail.
In fact we have the trail to ourselves for the first several miles as we loop up along the river and then take the junction up the Burma Road Trail (an old fire road and now part of the Summit Loop Trail).
Along the way, occasionally I catch the scents of pine and sage on this more arid, dry side of the Cascades. Of couse this year it's way too dry on either side of the mountains here in the Northwest. The Wolf Tree Trail to the Burma Road junction is the most forested part of the park.
Although it's not steep, the Burma Road Trail rises about 1,200 feet up from the river to the highest point, gradually. And the views just get more and more ahhh-some looking down to the rock formations and the volcanoes beyond.
|Broken Top and the Three Sisters on the horizon.|
|Can you spot the wood bridge where we started?|
|Looking back at the gradual incline of the Burma Road Trail.|
By now we've shed a layer and are down to tank tops and shorts. Up here the trail meanders through shrub-steppe and then starts switchbacking downward and back towards the main rock formations.
Despite getting a tad lost because the trail junctions aren't well marked up here, we manage to find our way and loop back down to the river again, onto the River Trail.
|Crooked River below, snowy Mt. Jefferson on the horizon.|
When we return down to the river level, the trail is basically flat the few couple miles back to the bridge and parking area. So we enjoy the easy stroll and appreciate the solitude we had until getting to the River Trail.
After making a hairpin turn, the River Trail loops back, passing many climbing routes that draw climbers from all over the world. Climbers in colorful helmets clutter the basalt cliff faces, but we don't linger to watch.
By the time we finish after about 3 hours, the day is heating up and lots more people are here taking pictures and walking the trails. Time for a cold one over in nearby Terrebone.
After Hike Eats
After a short drive of not more than 10 minutes, we land a table on the deck at the Pump House in Terrebone. I split an order of the fish tacos, which hit the spot and were quite tasty. Two thumbs up.
Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!
In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.
When You Go
Here is a trail map of Smith Rock State Park. The Summit Loop Trail, which is about 7.5 miles overall, is shown as several connecting trails (Wolf Tree, Burma Road, Summit Trail, to River Trail). Entrance to the park is off Highway 97 in Terrebone, about 27 miles north of Bend, Oregon. Day use parking is $5, and walk-in camping is available on a first-come, first-served basis.