Monday, August 10, 2015

Hiking Central Oregon: Smith Rock State Park Summit Loop Trail

My rock climber friends have raved about Smith Rock for years, but I didn't clue in until recently that it's also a fantastic place to hike. (I'm a failed rock climber who prefers my feet on solid ground...:)

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!

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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.



JoJo said...

I have a rock climbing friend in Bend who climbs at Smith Rock all the time and my former boss used to go as well. I was just watching 'Aerial America: Oregon' yesterday and they showed some great shots of Smith Rock.

Lainey Piland said...

Wow, what amazing scenery... that area has fascinating geology for sure! Looks like it was a lovely place to hike, and your photos are stunning. :)

jill said...

Hey JoJo, sounds like a wonderful show on Oregon. I love those flyover shots!

Lainey, thanks! Yea, it's fun to try the "dry" side now and then, the rock formations are so much more visible.

ashley said...

Lovely photos and story! I actually stumbled upon Smith Rock on a drive from Ellensburg to Bend years ago. I saw one of those green blobs on the map and thought, oh well I'll stop at this random state park for a break. I was completely blown away. It was early and there was hardly anyone there. Later I told my Oregon friends you should check out this Smith Rock place and they were like, um yeah, everyone already knows about it!

jill said...

Ashley, haha, yea Smith Rock is certainly on the map. It wasn't a park when I was a kid and drove by a lot, was private property back then so we didn't really know about it. Then it was this climber's secret, and now, well, yea, it's packed on weekends, etc.

Anonymous said...

The "dry" part of Oregon is a blissful place. The deeper into it you go the more amazing it is. We still own 80 acres above Harney lake - a very sometimes kind of feature and in this very dry year probably not wet at all. All of it is wonderful but I love rocks and I really love actually seeing the geology so clearly expressed. Always a good time and I have learned that going deep into central Oregon requires an appreciation for chicken fried steak and an understanding of the relative merits of mashed, hashed or fried potatoes and the nuances of gravy (creamed or red-eye) but these days some sort of green salad is generally available, of course the dressing is bottled. Other veg are frozen these days rather than canned. You all know about breakfast - the place is worth every bit of it - simply magic and more magic the further in you go. Mary Lou