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MailTribune.com
  • A fresh facet for one of Oregon's jewels

    Central Oregon's Smith Rock is getting a new hiking trail
  • TERREBONE — For many Oregonians a visit to Smith Rock State Park is a rite of spring.
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    • If you go
      Smith Rock State Park is three miles east of U.S. 97 at Terrebonne (nine miles northeast of Redmond); the park and driving route are well-signed. Primarily for day use, the park has a small walk-in...
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      If you go
      Smith Rock State Park is three miles east of U.S. 97 at Terrebonne (nine miles northeast of Redmond); the park and driving route are well-signed. Primarily for day use, the park has a small walk-in, tent-only campground called a bivouac area. Those seeking more developed camping usually stay at Cove Palisades State Park near Culver. Day-use parking is $5; 9241 N.E. Crooked River Drive; 800-551-6949; oregonstateparks.org.
  • TERREBONE — For many Oregonians a visit to Smith Rock State Park is a rite of spring.
    The volcanic crags and classic Western scenery make the park one of the most scenic in the state system (though coastal park lovers will argue that point).
    The sweet smell of Western juniper and sagebrush, the honking of nesting Canada geese and the occasional lucky sighting of a river otter greet visitors during spring.
    The 651-acre park in Central Oregon's high desert not far from Redmond draws about 500,000 annual visitors. At the same visitation rate per acre, Washington's Olympic National Park, the busiest park in the Northwest, would need to pack in 70 million visitors (it gets 2.8 million) to keep up with Smith Rock.
    Sounds like Smith Rock would be overrun. But somehow it's not.
    Still, the parking lot is often full on peak days, and latecomers are pretty much out of luck. Drivers can circle the road, but they can't park.
    Smith Rock celebrated Oregon's annual State Parks Day on June 1 with the grand opening of its welcome center and completion of a hiking trail that just may be the best day-hike loop in the state.
    "At some parks, visitors tend to congregate in a single area," said Scott Brown, park manager for the past three years. "Here at Smith Rock, visitors disperse throughout the park."
    A big reason for that are the technical rock climbers, who make up about half the park's visitors. The climbers have 1,800 routes on which to test their upward mobility.
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