Hike up, and up, and up to get fantastic vistas over Central Oregon. Unlike its name, Misery Ridge Trail in Smith Rock State Park is a surreal scene of beauty that will put a smile on your face 😊.
Last year, my husband and I hiked over 100 times throughout the lower 48 states. This trail sticks out as one of the most enjoyable and scenic that we did. We were caught off guard by Oregon’s rugged landscapes that look straight out of prehistoric times 🦖. We even joked along the way about encountering a velociraptor or brontosaurus.
As you climb up this path, you can almost imagine pioneers on the Oregon Trail navigating the covered wagons in agony. Despite the steep incline, the fantastic views make this hike a must! Read below for a complete trail guide including best time to go and what to pack.
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Table of Contents
Misery Ridge Trail Guide
Quick Hike Information
Length: 6 Miles
Elevation: 1700 Feet
Misery Ridge Trail Description
In order to access the Misery Ridge trail, you’ll need to park at the main parking area. Walk down the hill and then cross the bridge over the river until you get to the start of the trail. There is a clear sign at the beginning that warns you of your tough ascent above. Remember to stay on the trail, to keep these lands open for years to come.
You’ll understand why this trail gets its name as you climb up the steps and mountainous switchbacks 🏔. Go at your own pace and take breaks for plenty of water. Once you round the corner, you’ll see climbers traversing Picnic Lunch Wall before you make it to Ship Rock.
You can stop there for some pictures and a breather before continuing up the steep path. There are a bunch of wooden steps that will take you to the summit of the trail, 1700 feet above the ground. At this point, you may be huffing and puffing 😮💨 as you continue up and up.
Finally, you’ve made it to the summit where you will be able to see breathtaking panoramas of the area beyond. Rock formations stick up and the Crooked River winds around the canyon. You can stop there to take in the views or walk a little further to a bench where you can relax. From there, you can continue the loop or continue back the way you came.
Things to Know Before You Go
💵 Smith Rock State Park has a $5 fee per private vehicle parked. You can use the fee stations to pay for a spot.
☀️ Smith Rock has its own microclimate, so it’s sunny most of the time. However, this hike does climb up to some steep peaks so be on the lookout for weather changes.
⛺️There is camping within the park, but it’s on a first-come, first-served basis. You have to get a permit to camp, but it is only $8 a night and you’ll be surrounded by the tall rocky peaks. Campfires are prohibited at all times.
🐍 Smith Rock and the Misery Ridge trail are home to abundant wildlife. Birds like Eagles and Ospreys are common sightings, while you may also come across land animals as well. You may even see a rattlesnake, so be cautious and aware of your surroundings.
🦮 Dogs are allowed in the park, but they must be on a leash at all times. If you are rock climbing at Smith Rock, you must also leave someone at the base with your dog. Tickets for unleashed pets are more than $140.
⏰ Smith Rock is open from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset for day use.
🍃 Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles. As always, you want to leave nature looking better than you found it.
How to Get to the Misery Ridge Trail
Misery Ridge Trail is located in the heart of Smith Rock State Park. This park is half an hour’s drive 🚗 outside of Bend, Oregon and a 3 hour drive from Portland. The best way to get to this park is to drive there, because there is not a lot of public transportation in the area.
The best way to get to Smith Rock is by using Google Maps. If you try to just follow road signs, you will likely get lost.
The park is 3 miles off of highway 97 to the East, but there is only one small directional sign on the highway to lead you there. If you miss the sign, you will come across a cluster of restaurants, which means you’ve gone past the turn off. Turn around until you get back to the sign. It’s much better to have the directions 🗺 before you go.
Best Time to Hike Misery Ridge
Misery Ridge is fairly temperate all year long, which means it’s always a popular destination. If you want to avoid crowds, then you’ll want to hit the trails early in the morning.
Summer in Oregon runs from about mid-July to the end of August. You can expect extremely hot temperatures 🥵 at mid-day. With temps soaring into the late 90s and even 100s sometimes. It’s also the least rainy time of year. The trails are also very crowded in the summer, so you’ll need to start early if you want them to yourself or go on a week day.
Fall is a very pleasant time to hike the Misery Ridge trail. Temperatures are relatively warm and Fall colors 🍂 may peak through. Golden light shines off the walls of the canyon and makes for a beautiful landscape. Once you’re done hiking you can visit the pumpkin patch and take one home.
Winter is the perfect time to go if you want the trail to yourself. Temperatures can drop below freezing and there is often a snow covering ❄️ on the ground. Bring spikes and layers so that you can stay on the path and remain warm.
Spring is very fickle and hard to predict. In early spring, you may see snow and cooler temperatures or it may be nice. However, it’s still a great time to hike as the trail is quieter than the summer.
Misery Ridge Packing Guide
Oregon is one of the rainiest states 🌧 in the US, but, luckily, Smith Rock has its own unique climate. It rarely rains in the park and most of the year you can expect clear skies ☀️. Even if it’s raining nearby in Bend or Redmond the park may be sunny and bright.
Because of this microclimate, Smith Rock is also generally a bit warmer than the surrounding areas. It’s helpful to pack layers regardless 🎒, because the ridge line can get chillier than the ground below. Read my complete packing list below to keep you warm, dry, and safe.
- Comfortable Hiking Boots
- Hiking Poles
- Small Pack
- 3-4 Liters of Water
- Snacks and Food
- First Aid Kit
- Bug Spray
- Hat to block sun
- Rain jacket or light winter jacket
- Satellite phone
You can learn more about my favorite gear here!
Now you’re ready to take on one of the best hikes in Smith Rock State Park. Complete this hike, get fantastic views over this unique landscape, and watch climbers scale the walls of the mountains. Make sure to add Misery Ridge to your bucket list!
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this trail guide.
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