Trailblazer | 5056 pts
This is one of my absolute favorite hikes. Smith Rock is a hikers paradise. I hike this loop at least twice or three times a year, if not more. Once down into the canyon from the parking lot, cross the bridge over the Crooked River and you have three choices of where to go. That is right, left (downstream), or up Misery Ridge. My favorite is to go right (upstream) along the river. It takes you through tall, almost tree-like sagebrush skirting the canyon wall. Above you can see eagle nests and an occassional eagle. Continue for about another quarter mile or so and you can see cattails along the side of the river. Then ascend steeply up to a dirt road and follow this dirt road to the other side of the irrigation canal and up Staender Ridge. An irrigation tunnel was built in about 1940 that goes directly through Staender Ridge. Although many people use it as a short cut through the ridge (since during certain times of the year the water is shut off), it is not advisable to use it--danger of incoming water). The hike is moderate to the top of the ridge. Then the best part comes as you follow a small dirt path along the top of the ridge to the west--beautiful multi-colored rock spires. The trail is easy to moderate here--it is very breathtaking. Make sure you bring your camera! Now the tricky part comes when you're approaching the west side of the park--take an easier route off the ridge near where the irrigation canal exits the tunnel and continue west toward the Crooked River. Don't worry if you go past the tunnel's exit--there is no need to backtrack (main dirt road below will take you back to a dirt trail). You will run into another dirt trail near the river--follow it south. Continue along this easy to moderate trail until you approach Monkey Face. Here you have a choice of taking a steep climb up to Misery Ridge (shortcut to getting back), or continue along the trail for a nice gentle walk back to the bridge. If you take the latter trail, you may be able to glimpse a water fall (from irrigation water) off of a rimrock on the opposite side of the park (Westside). And, walking around the last point of the ridge coming back to the bridge, you can see where most of the rock climbers hang out. You can visit Smith Rock year round, but best to visit in spring, early summer and fall. If you do go during the summer--be careful of rattlesnakes! Just don't go off the trial.