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.

©istockphoto/GarysFRPWeath­er
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.