Our first full day of my birthday motorcycle trip took us from Carson, Washington, to Bend, Oregon, with a little-more-than-halfway stop to stretch our legs at the highly recommended Smith Rock State Park.
We had a lovely ride south from Hood River, initially taking a backroad that wound through hills and woods before rejoining a busier highway with awesome views of nearby Mt. Hood.
It was late morning when we arrived at Smith Rock State Park, and it was packed. I wasn’t sure we would be able to find a parking spot, which isn’t usually an issue when we’re on the bikes. We lucked into a spot not too far from the visitor center/trailer but it was a bit of a debacle waiting in line to pay our parking and entry fee. I’m not sure if the people working were new, but it didn’t seem like either of them knew what they were doing. When a group had questions about some of the trails, they would both offer advice – meanwhile the line of people waiting continued to grow. Dividing and conquering responsibilities would have helped everyone!
Beyond the wait, our experience interacting with the workers was less than ideal. Despite the parking fee being for a parking spot, they said we needed to pay for two parking spots since we arrived on two vehicles. But we parked both bikes in just one spot (which we always do). They didn’t know what to do about that because they thought each vehicle needed tagged so they said we needed to pay for two parking spots so each bike would have a tag.
Very frustrating, but not surprising. It’s become commonplace to find that most places’ policies are not designed with motorcycles in mind. We often have to jump through hoops and invest in advance planning to figure out how to enter and park at places on the bikes. And ultimately, as with Smith Rock, we often end up paying more, even though we require less!
Happily, the park itself was amazing and while it was incredibly hot, the bright blue sky stood in beautiful contrast to the exposed red and gold rocks.
Hiking at Smith Rock
After climbing out of our gear and applying ample sunscreen, we grabbed our water bags and headed out to make a ~1-mile loop hike to Crooked River. We walked a short distance on Rim Rock trail before heading down into the gorge via Chute Trail and then circling back up and out of the gorge via the Canyon Trail.
There’s a little footbridge that spans the river and grants access to a series of trails on the far side. We enjoyed the views of the rocks looming overhead from that low point and spotted some herons cooling off in the water.
After climbing back up to Rim Rock trail, we walked along the road to its turnaround point – the Northern Point trailhead.
I highly recommend making the time to check out this viewpoint – even if you simply drive down to the end and turnaround before heading out of the park. This is where you get the iconic view the river bending around the rocky walls that’s featured on every promotional material about Smith Rock! The view is absolutely as impressive in real life as it appears in the pictures!
Our time at Smith Rock was short – in part because we arrived mid-day and had other things on our itinerary and in part because it was exceptionally hot out and we couldn’t fathom doing a long hike in the blazing hot sun.
That said, I wrote down several longer hikes I’d love to check out under different circumstances so I hope we’ll return at some point!