hike: Misery Ridge at Smith Rock State Park

The Misery Ridge and River Trails showcase the best highlights of the park, winding around the rock formations next to the river, and then all the way to the top, with sweeping vistas in all directions.

Distance: 4.6 miles
Elevation gain: 1,000 ft.
Difficulty: moderate
Hike type: loop

To avoid the heat of the high desert during the summer months, do this hike early in the day, or visit during the spring or fall.

From the main parking lot, take the Rim Rock Trail, winding around the park’s east rim with great views into the river canyon before heading back towards the park’s visitors center.

Smith Rock – Misery Ridge hike

Past the buildings, take the The Chute Trail into the river canyon. Cross the bridge and turn left on the River Trail – the park’s rangers are advising people to hike the loop in this direction instead of heading up the east side of the Misery Ridge Trail directly across from the bridge. The west side is steeper, with a lot of scree (loose rock) on the trail, so it’s easier to hike up this section than it is to come down on the way back.

Smith Rock – Misery Ridge hike Smith Rock – Misery Ridge hike

Hiking beside the river as it twists and turns its way through the craggy rocks, this section of trail is close to several popular rock climbing areas, perfect for watching the rock climbers make their way up the sheer rock faces. To get an even closer view, there are many side trails and steps leading up to the routes used by the climbers.

Rounding the southern tip of the park, the trail forks just below Asterisk Pass. At that point, take the Mesa Verde Trail up towards Monkey Face. Passing next to the base of Monkey Face, it is common to see climbers working their way up the face of this dramatic spire.

Smith Rock State Park - Misery Ridge loop

The next section of trail is Misery Ridge, with steep, scree-covered switchbacks heading all the way to the top. Once at the top, soak in the stunning views of the Cascades, including Mount Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, Black Butte, North Sister, Middle Sister, South Sister, Broken Top, and Mount Bachelor.

Smith Rock – Misery Ridge hike  Smith Rock – Misery Ridge hike

At the top of Misery Ridge, ancient gnarled juniper trees, small sage shrubs, and wildflowers are scattered across a wide expanse of the rocky ridge. A side trail leads to an up front view of Monkey Face. With plenty of space to spread out, most people spend a bit of time at top to soak in the views before heading back down.

Smith Rock State Park - Misery Ridge loopSmith Rock – Misery Ridge hike

view from Misery Ridge

Smith Rock State Park - Misery Ridge loopSmith Rock – Misery Ridge hike Smith Rock – Misery Ridge hike Smith Rock – Misery Ridge hike

Heading down the northeast side of Misery Ridge, the trail has a combination of switchbacks and steep staircases, passing by some of the busier rock climbing sections of the park. Cross the river on the bridge again and head back up The Chute and the Rim Rock Trail to return to the parking lot.