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Smith Rock State Park, Oregon: A Hidden Desert Gem

Smith Rock State Park, located in central Oregon, is shrouded in a little bit of mystery. No one is 100% sure of how this park got its name, but there are a couple theories. One theory is that it was named after a U.S. Calvary private Voke Smith, who was about to be captured by the Native Americans but leapt to his death to avoid such capture. Another version of this same story is that he ended up atop the rocks during battle and fell by accident. Another theory is that it was simply named after John Smith, a Linn County sheriff and member of the state legislature during the 1850s and 60s. A state document from 1867 cites him as being credited for discovering the area. No matter the origin of this park's name, this is one amazing desert attraction you don't want to miss! Smith Rock State Park spans 650 acres and sits at an elevation of 3,000 feet. Crooked River cuts through rock formations made of welded tuff and compressed volcanic ash, creating 550-foot awe-inspiring walls and spires. This park attracts around 80,000 visitors per year and is busiest from mid-March through June, and then again from September to October. Open from dawn to dusk, you'll find the largest crowds in the morning. In preparation for your visit, familiarize yourself with these park rules:

    • A park pass is needed to get in. An Oregon State Park sticker works, or you can buy a day pass for $5 at the entrance.

    • Pets are welcome, but they must be on a leash.

    • Leave your drones and remote-controlled airplanes at home! These are prohibited as they can spook the wildlife.

Things To Do At Smith Rock State Park

People flock to Smith Rock State Park for its abundance of awesome outdoor activities. A haven for nature lovers, it's got all kinds of wildlife, plants, and amazing geological formations! Check out all you can do while you're here!


Climbers and slackliners love Smith Rock State Park! With 14 different climbing areas, there's something for every skill and interest level! As with any climbing area, know the rules before you get started. This area does not allow you to leave any lines up overnight. So if you want to hit the rocks in the morning and think setting up the day before is a good idea, forget it. Areas that are closed off for slacklining are over any trails, camping or picnic areas, or over the river. Finally, check with the park rangers for any climbing area closures. Usually the closures are in the less popular areas, but they can happen anywhere if certain birds are nesting in the area. If you want a climbing guide to accompany you, you're in luck! While the park itself doesn't offer guides, there are many guide services in the area! The American Mountain Guides Association has affiliated guide services all over. It's recommended you choose one from them so that you know you're getting a reputable guide service. Here are a few guide services to consider: Smith Rock Climbing School
Timberline Mountain Guides
Chockstone Climbing Guides
Smith Rock Climbing Guides, Inc.

Climbing Monkey Face

Smith Rock State Park is home to a rock formation that looks a whole lot like a monkey's face. Aptly named Monkey Face, it stands 350 feet in the air and is comprised of varying levels of pitch for an interesting climb. Once you reach the top you get a great look at the park below and can enjoy breathtaking views!

Climbing the Monument

Standing tall at 600 feet, the Monument is stunning to look at from the ground and fun to climb! Gorgeous views await you at the top! Just be sure to watch for signs of closure due to golden eagles that have chosen to nest there. This typically occurs late February through late June.

Fishing the Crooked River

The Crooked River cuts through the rock formations and offers an angler's paradise! Chock full of trout and mountain whitefish, you're sure to catch a delicious dinner! Just be sure you have an Oregon fishing license and you're aware of the current regulations. Regulations may change depending on the time of year and the current fish population, so review them before you head out!

Horseback Riding

If you're up for a fun ride along the many trails of Smith Rock State Park, horseback is a wonderful way to go! Equestrians can bring their own horses, or there are tours available as well! Smith Rock Trail Rides offers experienced trail horses and guides, so hop on and follow them along the beautiful Oregon trails! Check out their website for more information on booking your tour!

Viewing Wildlife

Smith Rock State Park is home to abundant wildlife! Almost everywhere you turn you'll see some sort of critter scurrying or slithering about! Near the river you'll see geese, ducks, and blue heron. Along the trails you will likely find some lizards and a snake or two beneath your feet. Most of the snakes are gopher snakes, which are harmless, but keep your ears open for the sound of rattlesnakes. If you hear one, stay away from it and let it go on its way. They would rather not tangle with you, so as long as you keep your distance, they're not going to chase you. Other animals in the park include otters, coyotes, cougars, rabbits, marmot, and deer! Look up and you'll see a few different kinds of birds of prey! These birds include kestrels, red-tail hawk, golden eagles, and the majestic bald eagle!


You'll find an abundance of hiking trails in Smith Rock State Park! The main area boasts six trails, and on the other side of the bridge there are six more! These ones lead you to the climbing areas where you can watch climbers scale the rocks!

Annual Events

There are two annual events held at Smith Rock State Park every year! Smith Rock Spring Thing is a volunteer day that allows you to give back and help make the park a better place for all! You can assist in completing projects around the park that benefit the people and the wildlife. Check for dates of the next one here!
The Highline Festival is an event for all those slackliners looking to try out their skills and meet with others who share the same passion. For more information on upcoming dates, click here.


Camping in Smith Rock State Park is restricted to only tent camping. No RVs are allowed. If you are planning to tent camp here, the sites are all on a first-come, first-served basis. You can bring in a gas stove for cooking, but you must use it only in the picnic areas. You are not allowed to cook at the campsites. Because of the dryness of this area, charcoal grills and campfires are not permitted anywhere! While you can't go RVing in the park, there are a few great RV parks in the area! Check out these ones!

Skull Hollow Campground

Not too far from Smith Rock State Park is Skull Hollow Campground! Here you can bring your RV, charcoal grill, and build a campfire! Just eight miles north of the state park, this area isn't as dry, so this campground isn't under a burn ban like the state park. Open from March until about mid-November, this campground only offers pit toilets for amenities. Make sure your fresh water tank and LP tanks are full, your waste tanks are empty, and your batteries are fully charged before arriving at Skull Hollow Campground.
For more info on this campground click here!

Crooked River Ranch RV Park

About 12 miles northeast of Smith Rock State Park is Crooked River Ranch RV Park. This RV park offers 90 RV spaces and 20 tent spaces, so there's plenty of room for everyone! Building a fire in this lush park is allowed, as are charcoal grills. You'll also find a host of amenities such as:

    • Modern restrooms and showers

    • Laundry facilities

    • Wi-Fi

    • A swimming pool

    • A playground

For more info on this beautiful RV park, click here!

Expo Center RV Park

About 12 miles south of Smith Rock State Park is Expo Center RV Park. This park operates year round with 106 RV sites and 10 tent sites. Here you can expect to find amenities such as:

    • Full hookups

    • Big rig access

    • Modern restrooms & showers

    • Pet-friendly grounds

This RV park is located on the grounds of the Expo Center, so there are tons of things you can do while staying here! Check out their site for more info!
Head into the Oregon desert where you'll find tons of fun! Smith Rock State Park is so much more than a desert area. You won't be able to help but fall in love. Share photos of your excursion below!

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