Overview: Smith Rock, Oregon
Smith Rock is the birthplace of American sport climbing and remains one of the most popular climbing destinations in the country. Smith Rock is the number one visited state park in Oregon, located in the middle of the state itself. The Crooked River flows through the park and eagles soar above as you climb historical, world-class lines. Smith is a high-desert environment located east of the Cascade range. A vast majority of the rock is volcanic tuff and basalt, and this makes for sharp holds that can be rough on the skin. The approach to the main park area is mellow—just a 10-minute hike to the Morning Glory wall, the popular warm-up area. There are about 1800 routes that are suitable for climbers of all ability levels, including many multi-pitch climbs. Its beautiful setting, rich history, friendly locals, and world-class routes makes Smith Rock a must-visit for any passionate climber.
Specific description of climbing style
Expect vertical to slightly overhanging rock with a wide variety of holds. Note that most of the routes here are considered “old school”—Smith isn’t like other sport climbing areas where the bolts are spaced five feet apart. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself pulling committing moves with your last bolt quite far below you. Bring a stick clip, as sometimes there are hard moves below the first bolt. Smith also hosts many high quality traditional routes that are often overlooked, with a large quantity of basalt trad climbs found in the Upper and Lower Gorge.
The transitional seasons of spring and fall are the best times of year to climb at Smith, as it does experience extreme temperature changes in the winter and summer. However, climbing can be manageable in the sun during winter and in the shade during summer.
Climbing grade range
Smith has numerous routes of all grades, starting at 5.4 and going up to 5.14c, with many classic, historical, and must-do routes.
Best local spot
The climber-owned Terrebonne Depot has great “New American” food and is just minutes away from the cliffs. A 30-minute drive into Bend will offer a larger variety of restaurants to satisfy even the most random cravings, as well as many cafes and breweries.
Top climbs in area
- Voyage of the Cowdog (5.8, 3 pitches) – While the first two pitches are nothing mind-blowing, the third pitch delivers exposure and a top-out view well worth the climbing
- Wherever I May Roam (5.9, 5 pitches) – A must-do multi-pitch climb at Smith, full of the classic knob and pockets pulls that characterize the area’s climbing
- Barbeque the Pope (5.10b) – A popular climb, very characteristic of Smith—crimps and edges with well-spaced bolts
- Holier Than Thou (5.11b) – Mellow (but heads up) climbing leads you to a steep headwall with long reaches between horizontal pockets
- Heinous Cling (5.12c) – Technical crimps and pockets lead to a powerful crux just below the anchors that you’ll wish you weren’t pumped for
- Latest Rage (5.12b) – A sustained, technical arete
- Kings of Rap (5.12d) – Shallow pockets, side pulls, arete pinching, and stemming with long reaches
- Churning in the Wake (5.13a) – Starts mellow and gets progressively harder and more beta intensive, with a traversing crux below the anchors
- Darkness at Noon (5.13a) – Everything you could want in a sport route—two-finger pockets, big moves on positive holds, balancy mico-edges, overhanging sections on good holds, and resting jugs just when you need them
- Cinnamon Slab (5.6) – Climbs a large, low angle, right facing corner
- Cruel Sister (5.10a, Lower Gorge) – A mega classic hand crack
- Pure Palm (5.11a, Lower Gorge) – The name says it all; pure stemming, with literally no holds
- Wartley’s Revenge (5.11b) – Considered one of the best traditional climbs at Smith with a little bit of everything: tricky stemming, thin cracks, a hand traverse, changing corners, and even a face move
Best kept secret
The local climbing community in Smith may be the area’s best kept secret—not only are the climbers here friendly and welcoming, but they are likely to go out of their way to give you secret beta or even a couch to crash on. Most locals embrace outside visitors and encourage climbers to make the trek to their crag. In terms of the climbing, however, many people overlook or don’t realize that there is a basalt area called the Lower Gorge that, unlike the main areas of Smith, has routes that are short and steep. Check it out if you get the chance.
How stiff is the grading?
Many climbers consider Smith home to some of the most sandbagged routes in the country. It’s best to start a number grade below what you usually climb and then work up from there. Once you get comfortable with the style and runout nature of the climbing, the routes will start to feel less intimidating.
Where to stay?
There are many options when it comes to camping and lodging close to Smith. “The Bivy” is a camping area just next to the park for just $2 a night, with a great climber atmosphere. You can also find BLM camping a few miles outside of the park, as well as many hotels in Terrebonne, Redmond, and Bend.
Where is all the good beer?
Bend has over fifteen breweries. The Deschutes Brewery is the most well-known place to grab beer, but there are many other breweries and bars nestled among the city.
Where is a good place for a rest day? What activities?
Going to Bend is a great way to spend a rest day—this city is full of breweries, shops, and interesting locals. If you’re looking for something more active, you can ski/snowboard Mt. Bachelor in the winter and spring, or go mountain biking, hiking, or running on the many miles of trails surrounding the city.
There are basic grocery stores in Terrebonne and Redmond, as well as organic options in Bend.
There are a few gear stores close to Smith—Redpoint Climber’s Supply in Terrebonne is the local spot, Mountain Supply and REI in Bend are larger-scale.
There are many options when buying a guidebook for Smith, but most consider Rock Climbing Smith Rock State Park by Alan Watts to be the most comprehensive.
Now to you
These destination guides are only made possible through the feedback from climbers like yourself. Are we missing some beta? Have anything extra to share? Leave your feedback in the comments below.
Have your own destination beta? Submit a destination today.
Photos in this posts have been sourced from Flickr, with usage under Creative Commons.