Hiking “Misery Ridge” Best Trail in Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park is one of Oregon’s best parks for hiking and climbing, and Misery Ridge is the top trail in the park to do for sunrise or sunset! This is Smith Rock State Park’s most popular hikes for a good reason, it’s enjoyable, challenging and you’re rewarding with an epic view at the top.

This hike took us less than an hour to get to the top viewpoint and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise over amazing, huge rocks jutting out of the ground. This was an incredible hike and we’re here to share our photos, experience, and everything you need to know about hiking Smith Rock State Park’s Misery Ridge trail yourself!

Where is Smith Rock State Park?

Smith Rock State Park is located in Central Oregon, and is a 35-minute drive from Bend and 3 hours from Portland. Check out our 3-day Bend itinerary if you’re staying in the area for more of the best things to do in Bend! Smith Rock State Park is one of the best parks to visit in Oregon with deep river canyons and large rocks for hiking and climbing, and the views are pretty special too.

How to get to Misery Ridge Trailhead

The trailhead to Misery Ridge is located very close to the parking lot, but because this is a day-use area know that you are only able to visit between dawn and dusk everyday. The trailhead to Misery Ridge actually starts at the Crooked River footbridge, which you will find by hiking down from the parking lot to the river base.

From the parking area, follow signs for the Canyon Trail and continue to follow until you reach the river. You’ll notice a bathroom, picnic table and water fountain before you cross the bridge, so make sure to use them if you need. After crossing the bridge, you’ll reach a junction that leads you to the different paths. Follow straight ahead for the Misery Ridge trail!

Parking at Smith Rock State Park

This is a very popular park, so while it is important to get there early to avoid crowds you should know that the parking area is large and you likely won’t have problems finding a spot. Remember that this is a day-use area and to avoid parking where the gates will lock your car in. The day-use parking will cost you only $5 a day per vehicle, and there are 3 pay stations available.

When is the best time to visit?

One of the best things about this park is that it’s located in the high desert, so the temperatures are enjoyable even in the Winter! We visited in January and we had the entire park to ourselves. The trails were a bit frosty in the morning and we wore our puffer jackets to stay warm, but it was worth it to escape the crowds and enjoy the trails to ourselves.

I would definitely recommend visiting this park any time of the year. The trails are accessible year-round and the parking lots are open and available. Summer would be the most enjoyable time of the year to visit this park, however, you will be facing crowds of people as this is a popular park.

What you need to know before hiking Misery Ridge

Before you begin your hike, it’s important to know what to pack for your day hike and come prepared. This means wearing proper hiking boots, wearing layers, bringing a jacket, and packing your backpack with plenty of water and snacks. Smith Rock State Park is located in the high desert and most of the terrain you will be hiking on is sand and dirt.

It can get very hot and dry in the high desert, so make sure to pack sunscreen and plenty of water. There are water fill-up stations located at the entrance of the park along with bathrooms and picnic tables. This is a dog-friendly park but make sure to clean-up after your dog. Drones are only permitted in certain months of the year so make sure to check if you’re bringing a drone.

Hiking to Misery Ridge

The Misery Ridge trail is a short trail at 3.5KM long, but don’t let the distance fool you. This trail is steep, and you will be climbing 340M of elevation! This trail features switchbacks and stairs to guide you up to the ridge. This route typically will take you 45-minutes each way, and there is an option to extend your trail if you want!

We stopped to take photos at the Phoenix Buttress, which is the large rock face featured in our photos. The entire trail will take you further for a view of Monkey Face, which is an interesting rock jutting in the shape of a monkeys face. The entire trail is rated difficult, and even though we are in good shape we were huffing and puffing!

Extended Misery Ridge Trail or Loop Trail

There are a few options to extend your route if you’d like. You can continue climbing the Summit trail which will add a few more KM’s to your trip. You can continue to take the Misery Ridge trail as a loop or do what we did and climb back down the way we came. The backside is beautiful as well but can get slippery in the winter.

Hiking Misery Ridge at Sunrise or Sunset

We decided to hike this trail for sunrise and it was fantastic! We packed our headlamps and hiked for about 30 minutes in the dark and the sun started to come up for the last 15 minutes of our hike. We made it to the top right for sunrise and enjoyed the glowing orange light hitting the rocks! Sunset would be fantastic too, as there is plenty of room for people to watch the sun go down.

If you are unfamiliar with hiking in the dark, I recommend you read our guide to hiking in the dark and prepare yourself with all of the gear you’ll need. It is important to pack layers because it will be colder in the dark, and bringing your headlamp is the best way to be prepared for hiking in the dark.

Other hikes to do at Smith Rock State Park

  • Crooked River Trail, 7.2KM
  • Canyon Trail & Homestead Trail, 3.7KM
  • Summit Trail, 9.7KM
  • Wolf Tree Trail, 4.3KM
  • Rim Rock Trail
  • Mesa Verde Trail
  • The Chute Trail, 0.8KM

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