©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.

As Black Dia­mond tells it, the dark isn’t always the end of the day, some­times it’s just the begin­ning. For in the end, most adven­tures don’t always fit neat­ly between a sun­set and a sun­rise, so get out there and push the lim­its of what’s pos­si­ble with­in a day. Shot at Smith Rock, watch as climbers take to the clas­sic sport climb­ing des­ti­na­tion all day and all night.

Shop Black Dia­mond here. 

climbing-smith-rock-4Smith Rock is a climber’s par­adise. When you descend the wind­ing trail that takes you toward its mes­mer­iz­ing cliffs, you real­ize you’re some­place spe­cial. The crag­gy out­crops seem like they’ve been trans­port­ed from a fairy tale and the Crooked Riv­er mean­ders in a per­fect bend around the for­ma­tion, cradling the val­ley in the com­fort of an old friend. The warm and invit­ing ancient ambiance makes you want to stay. And after my first vis­it there in 2003 that’s exact­ly what I did.

From 2005 to 2010 I spent my sum­mers work­ing for Chock­stone Climb­ing Guides, lead­ing brave clients of all abil­i­ties over and up the crag­gy play­ground. By 2012, I had left Cen­tral Ore­gon for Port­land and start­ed work­ing as a copy­writer for The Clymb. When we launched Clymb Adven­tures in Decem­ber 2013 I knew I had to bring my two worlds together.

The adult climb­ing camp run by Chock­stone Climb­ing Guides at Smith Rock is one The Clym­b’s most pop­u­lar offer­ings. Last week, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to head back to my old stomp­ing grounds and par­tic­i­pate for a day. No longer a Chock­stone guide, I had the ben­e­fit of view­ing the expe­ri­ence from the out­side, as a Port­land-based climber and as an offi­cial hawk­er of the ser­vice. All bias­es and clichés aside: it rocked.

I work in the out­door and adven­ture trav­el indus­try because I dig help­ing peo­ple get out­side and expe­ri­ence the places I love. And there is almost nowhere on this plan­et I’d rather be climb­ing than at Smith Rock. 

Here are the top 5 rea­sons why you will love climb­ing there too:

climbing-smith-rock-11. World-class routes: Steeped in tra­di­tion, Smith Rock is home to some of the best climb­ing in the uni­verse. The vol­canic weld­ed tuff is known for its tech­ni­cal edges, cryp­tic sequences, and fore­arm-pump­ing enduro-routes. For the tra­di­tion­al climber, Smith has a wide array of mul­ti-pitch lines that range from mod­er­ate to puck­er­ing, and you can climb laser-cut cracks for days in the basalt won­der­land of the low­er gorge.

2. Dirt­bag Del­i­ca­cies: Chock­stone guides know how to whip up a meal. The menu includes every­thing from spicy cur­ries to three-course Ital­ian spreads. One of my favorite parts of being a guide for Chock­stone was at the end of the day, when we got to sit down and share good food and bet­ter beer with cool clients in the great out­doors. 

3. The Best Guides Ever: These guys are pro. Not only will they keep you well fed, buy they’ll also keep you safe while show­ing you the best that Smith has to offer. Ever tun­neled through basalt caves or copped a view of Gold­en eagles pick­ing off prey? There’s a lot more than just world-class climb­ing at Smith Rock. 

4. A Room With a View: The high desert of Cen­tral Ore­gon is pris­tine and wild. My favorite evening chore was watch­ing shoot­ing stars till I could­n’t keep my eyes open any longer. You’ll fall asleep as the coy­otes howl at the moon after a long day of sam­pling all the dif­fer­ent tastes of Smith.


5. Awe­some Peo­ple: Smith Rock draws climbers of vary­ing abil­i­ties from across the world to hone their skills on its mas­sive walls. Their shared love of stone leads to impromp­tu tent-com­mu­ni­ties of like-mind­ed climbers who want noth­ing more than to sit around and talk rock. Dur­ing the day, you will enjoy some of the best climb­ing the coun­try has to offer with your new friends as the guides take you to secret stash­es all through­out the park. At night you will toast your suc­cess­es over spe­cial­ly select­ed Ore­gon micro-brews.

I have to stop rem­i­nisc­ing now oth­er­wise I might end up burn­ing through the rest of my vaca­tion days to go back!

Pho­tos Cour­tesy of Richard Yeh

4‑Day Smith Rock Climb­ing School — Book it