Climb Like a Local: Smith Rock


Categories: Climb Like a Local

Get ready to finesse the best vertical crimping of your life. This Oregon climbing area in one of the most gorgeous and idyllic settings you can imagine—complete with otters splashing in the river below and bald eagles soaring above you.

Paige Claassen Rock Climbing at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon
Photo courtesy of © Rich Crowder

THE VIBE: You’d be hard pressed to find a more passionate, down to earth community of climbers than those who call Smith Rock home. The folks here are genuinely kind, and they take immaculate care of their crag. While most of the locals are ridiculously strong (warm up on 5.13 anyone?), they’re incredibly humble, welcoming, and just out to have a good day. There are 5.8s next to 5.14s and everyone is hanging out together. The scene is full of laid back people who love climbing but also love climbers and are happy to share their home crag.

AVOID THE CROWDS: You can avoid the heavy crowds by heading to the Backside, Marsupials, or the Student Wall. It’s a bit more walking to get there, but only a fraction of the time you will spend waiting in line at the more popular areas. The Lower Gorge also offers loads of 5.10-5.12 single pitch trad climbs on incredible cracks. And Snake Rock has some striking routes with really nice views of the western side. If you see a wall is already packed with climbers, choose a different crag to reduce crowds and further impact.

PARKING BETA: On weekends in the spring and fall, the parking lot fills up quickly with hikers and sight-seers. It’s best to arrive before 10am or after 3pm to get a parking spot—or climb mid-week, which is what the locals do.

LOCAL PET PEEVES: Not keeping a low profile. Dogs off leash, excessive yelling, radios, large groups, and going off trail all have huge impacts and are frowned upon by locals. In general, just be a respectful, responsible climber and you’ll fit right in.

WATCH OUT: Do not set up a king swing on the Monkey Face, as climbers have been critically injured due to other climbers' swinging mishaps. Also, some pretty spectacular peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and golden eagles all nest at Smith and fledge from May to July. Pay attention to closures, as the nesting of these birds has come under threat in recent years.

LOCAL HOTSPOT: A climbing trip to Smith Rock wouldn't be complete without a stop at Terrebonne Depot Food & Drink. It's the perfect spot to grab a beer and burger (or fancy salad) and relax on the patio after a long day of climbing. Locals swear by the burgers, and the atmosphere—set in an old train depot—is unique and laid back.

PRO TIP: “Lower your performance expectations for a visit to Smith. Smith Rock climbing is highly technical climbing and takes time to adjust to. It really teaches you how to climb—forget the biceps and focus on your feet, but don't underestimate how much core power this precise and balance-y style requires. I always find I'm in my best bouldering shape after a trip to Smith because the climbing is incredibly powerful in a very unique way.” ~Paige Claassen, pro climber and Smith Rock regular

WHO'S GOT YOUR BACK? Smith Rock Group represents the Smith Rock climbing community, and they work hard to maintain access and positive relationships with park staff. Each spring they hold a huge volunteer day. Several locals are tirelessly upgrading old bolts with stainless steel glue ins.

Get more Climb Like a Local destination guides and start planning your next climbing road trip!

UP NEXT FOR CLIMB LIKE A LOCAL>> Experience the novelty of outdoor bouldering in the middle of the urban jungle.

Don't Miss Out

Sign up to have the Climb Like a Local series delivered to your inbox twice a month!