I head to Smith Rock, where I would be taking yet another day off from cycling the route to get my tyres dirty.
Smith Rock was declared a state park in 1960. It is located in central Oregons high desert region in Deschutes County. Over the years its towering red rock spires have become synonymous with sport climbing. Although Smith is most popular for its climbing routes, there are also hiking, walking, horse riding and not forgetting biking trails available in the park.
The first thing that strikes you on visiting Smith Rock is the pure visual impact of the place, and it's no surprise that it has its place among the 7 wonders of Oregon. Originally, I had only intended to stay here for one night, but with well priced camping in one of the most idyllic campsites I've ever been. It was just too perfect.
Each morning I had breakfast then headed out to the edge of camp overlooking the deep caldera and river below; watching as the Eagles soared through the valley whilst I sat perched on the cliff edge equipped with a freshly pressed cup of coffee beholding the sublimity of the view. This is, for me, what it's all about: enjoying simple pleasures in breathtaking places.
WHERE IS SMITH ROCK?
Smith rock state park is located in central Oregons high desert region in Deschutes County, just east of Terrebonne and just a few minutes north of Redmond. Should you be flying there; Redmond has its own airport for domestic flights only.
Also worth noting: Bend is just 26miles south of Smith rock. Bend is a mountain town famed for its accessibility to a wide range of outdoor activities. Not only does Bend offer a wealth of things to do for the outdoor enthusiast, but it is also famed for its beer; why not finish up your day with a trip to at least one, of Bends 22 breweries.
Smith rock bivouac area is the only campsite in the park. It's well priced at five dollars per night and there are shower, toilet, and charging facilities available. The campsite is a walk in only; meaning you leave your vehicle in the designated car park, and carry your gear into the site. The walk isn't far and this has the added benefit of allowing the camp to retain a more natural feel. It works on a first come first serve basis and there are no allocated pitches. On a weekend in April I found there to be no shortage of places to pitch, though it is likely to be considerably busier in the summer months.
Because of the high risk of fire in this hot dry climate; open flames are forbidden in the bivouac area. Fortunately just outside camp there is a designated area with a number of picnic tables that provide campers with a safe and social space for cooking and eating. Sleeping in your vehicle overnight is also not permitted in the park.
As 'official' campsites go this is up there with the best I've ever been to.
THE SUMMIT TRAIL
Hike or bike this single track circuit of the park, ascending to the summit at 3600ft
At only 7.3 miles it is not the longest loop, but when the scenery is this good it doesn't matter. Why not do it twice or add an extra loop? What it may lack in miles it more than makes up for in smiles. Looking at the surrounding terrain I wasn't entirely sure what the surface of the trail would hold for me on my cross bike. Fortunately, I found the trail to be well maintained and largely less technical than I had anticipated. Aside from some small scree sections and of course the infamous switchbacks that required some nimble cornering skills it was great fun. I'd probably recommend using a mountain bike for this route, but if your confident enough and have some reasonably aggressive tyres, a cross bike will provide a thrilling challenge.
If riding the loop clockwise I'd recommend just turning around at the summit and heading back the way you came. The Burma road is unsurprisingly more road like, and the fun but tough climb up the switchbacks is even better to descend. If your adamant about doing the circuit I'd start by climbing the Burma road first, and then descending the switchbacks. So doing the loop anti-clockwise.
Maps are available for free in the park and you'll find the route is well marked and easy to follow.
WHEN TO GO
The high desert climate of the area is dry with low humidity, low rainfall, and moderate temperatures, but cold nights are common, even in the summer months. This makes it a good year round destination, but the best times for outdoor activities are Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to mid November). The summer months (June to August) can be extremely hot and it can regularly exceed 37 degrees Centigrade (100 degrees Fahrenheit ) so it is advised to start any activities early, and carry plenty of water. This is also the busiest time of year, and should be avoided if possible. If you want to beat the crowds winter is your best bet, but be prepared for the temperature to drop below freezing.
For more information visit SmithRock.com