The most popular hike in Smith Rock State Park
Misery Ridge lives up to its name if you're not in shape
It's only four miles so there's that
Misery Ridge is the shining star in Smith Rock State Park. It offers a pretty intense little climb. Has all the views that you read about in View Magazine, it’s not a real magazine but should be. And then there’s Monkey Face. It’s a big deal. People from all over the world come to our home turf to see this unique feature.
The Misery Ridge loop is not very long, only four miles. Half of it is either a up or down. And the other part is a little flat on the top and a nice stroll beside the river.
You start at the Smith Rock Parking lot, there is a $5 charge for parking. There’s a self issue machine at the parking lot and the last time I used it, it only accepted cards, no cash. My first pro tip for this expedition is to arrive early. The parking lot fills up very quickly and parking becomes a situation. Also, this is no trail to be on in the middle of summer in the middle of the day. Every year we read about someone needing to be rescued because of lack of preparation, not enough water. Coupled with not enough brains, hiking in the middle of the day. Don’t be that person, it’s not a good look.
The trail goes downhill initially and then you cross a bridge. Going straight will take you up Misery Ridge. This is the most popular way to complete the loop. This brings us to another pro tip. Cross the bridge and turn left. This way you will go up the backside by Monkey Face, and come down the front. It took me many years and many loops to figure out that this is the safer way to go. The backside is very loose and slippery if you are coming down it. So, go up it. Then you can use the stairsteps on the front side to make an easier go on the way down. You get all the same views, the same experience without falling on your butt numerous times. Whenever I am going up, people I meet coming down are concerned about when they will fall. It’s not so bad when you do slip, you land on your butt and slide a few feet. It’s the thought of slipping that takes up residence in your head. It robs you of some of the enjoyment of the loop.
Once you turn left at the bridge, you will get a nice path along the river. Plenty of ducks and geese swimming around give the place a nice atmosphere. All that life moving about gives it the happy vibe.
Around two miles, the trail splits. Take the right and start your climb to the base of Monkey Face and ultimately the top. Take your time, anytime you run out of breath, use those moments of recovery to soak in the place. The trail steepens at the base of Monkey Face. It’s not that bad. A few switchbacks and you’ll be at the top. There are some well positioned benches up there that beg for sitting.
The trail flattens out at the top. Then you start down the frontside. It is steep too but there are steps that make it better. I really like the views from this part of the trail. This is a great place to see my favorite destination in the park, the Eagles Nest.
Take your time, watch your step, watch the climbers clinging to the wall. This really is an exciting place to visit!
Soon you will be back at the bridge. Then the short climb up brings you back to the parking lot.
If you are in somewhat decent shape, and want a hike with some elevation gain and good views, you can’t go wrong with this local favorite. Next time you pass through Central Oregon. Make it a point to hike Misery Ridge at Smith Rock State Park.
From Terrebonne, turn East on B Avenue. Just out of town, turn left on Lambert Road(NE 1st Street). Stay the course as it makes a right turn. A mile or so later, turn left on Crooked River Drive. That leads to the parking lot. There are plenty of signs, you will have no problem finding it.
My favorite things about this trail are the many other people I have a chance to meet. I notice as I’m going up, the folks coming down are more pleasant and willing to talk a bit. When I’m going down, the people coming up can be very foul and have no desire to even give me a nod hello. I find it amusing and take no offense. I have been on steep trails and when the thing starts to get serious, I know how the stinky attitude can seep into my body. I have seen friendships on the verge of collapse on the misery ridge trail. One person has very real rage toward their jerk friend that convinced them to hike the loop. It really is good old-fashioned fun up there. Please remember if you get talked into hiking misery ridge, when it comes right down to it, nobody put a gun to your head and made you do it. You only have yourself to blame for the dreadfully great time you will have.
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Once you cross the bridge, go left. You will thank me as you see people sliding down in wide eyed fear as you are going up.
The trail along the river is very nice.
It's fun to watch the climbers while resting in a shady spot
There's Monkey Face.
You can see the trail leading up to it.
Soon you will start the climb
Right around two miles the trail splits.
Very close to the base of Monkey Face
You gain a good amount of altitude on this hike.
You didn't think a trail called Misery Ridge would
be easy, did you?
Near the top of the climb.
You'd be hard pressed to find a better located bench
in Central Oregon
The flats along the top.
Going down the front side. Expect a lot of stair steps.
The Eagles Nest is my favorite hike at Smith Rock.
It's a little longer and higher than Misery Ridge.
The views up there are really good.
Me and Scrambler (Scram)
I like this trail for all the people I get to meet.
Most people are more interested in meeting Scram than me.
I get it, he's cool like that.
Back across the bridge, and a short climb to the parking lot.
That last little climb can be a real soul crusher.