Climbing at Smith Rock in Oregon

©istockphoto/KingWuIf you’re a rock climber who lives in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve probably heard of Smith Rock. It’s Oregon’s premier rock climbing destination, and one of the best sport climbing areas in the United States.

The area was developed over the past 30-40 years by local and international climbers who were drawn from all over the world by Oregon’s moderate climates, short approaches, and sturdy volcanic tuff and basalt cliffs. The area currently boasts over 1,500 climbs (both single and multi-pitch), and development continues today, with beginner-friendly and cutting-edge expert-level climbs going up every year. Though the area is best known for bolted sport routes, trad climbers will also find plenty of routes to explore.

Getting There
Smith Rock State Park is located on the outskirts of Terrebonne, Oregon. Follow Smith Rock Drive East off Highway 97 in Terrebonne, then take a left on 17th Street, a right on Wilcox Ave, and a left on Crooked River Drive to get to the climbing area’s primary parking area. The park is 3 hours southeast of Portland and 6-7 hours from Seattle, Washington.

Approaches are generally straightforward from the main parking lot, and a well-maintained trail system provides easy access. Dogs are welcome, as long as they’re friendly and kept on a leash. There’s fresh water available at the parking lot, though they’re sometimes turned off in the coldest winter months to avoid frozen pipes. To be safe, bring your own drinking water.

Because it’s nestled in Oregon’s high desert, the weather is almost always dry, sunny, and perfect for rock climbing. The heat can be oppressive on summer afternoons, but because there are so many routes in the area, it’s almost always possible to find a route in the sunshine or in the shade, depending on your party’s preferences. Just be sure to bring sunscreen for the days and warm jackets for the desert evenings, which can get chilly.

Must-Do Routes
Sport routes range from 5.7 (Dancer, Bunny Face, Round There) and 5.8 (Lusty Lady, Scary Llamas, Five Gallon Buckets) to 5.12 (Heinous Cling State, Dreamin’, Freebase, White Trash) and 5.13 (Aggro Monkey, Darkness at Noon, Vicious Fish). Don’t miss the Monkey Face, and be sure to explore the area that locals call “The Dihedrals.”

On Your Rest Days
Drive 35 miles (roughly half an hour) southwest to the family-friendly town of Bend, Oregon, which boasts sun-drenched days and cool, restful nights. The mountain getaway is legendary for good reason: majestic snow-capped peaks dot the high-desert skyline, making for some of the best weather in Oregon, and the town is rich in microbreweries (including the legendary Bend Ale Trail), artisanal coffee shops, and award-winning restaurants. During the summer months you can catch a show at a nearby art gallery, watch raptors soar at the High Desert Museum, explore local trails on mountain bikes, or take a tour of the ancient lava tubes. In the winter, hit the slopes at Mount Bachelor, then rest your aching muscles at a local spa.

For more information about climbing at Smith Rocks, grab a copy of the Falcon Guide Book, or check out their site here