I was asking my friend Kat from Wild Hearts Club where a good place was to go camping in Oregon. She immediately pulled out her phone and showed me a picture of Smith Rock.
It was stunning and her campsite was overlooking a canyon with a river running through it. She confirmed to me that the toilets did indeed flush, the restrooms were clean and there were showers.
I got inspired and immediately booked a weekend trip.
Here’s BINGO testing out new his sleeping bag before our big trip!
Smith Rock is about a 3-hour drive from downtown Portland. We stopped at a casino in Warm Springs, Oregon to use the washroom (it was super clean). After that we headed into a Safeway in Madras to stock up on ice and any last-minute items. From Madras it was only another 30-minute drive to the park.
Camping in The Bivouac Area
We arrived on a Thursday, bought a camping permit from the machine (it takes Visa or MasterCard) and off we went to find our walk-in campsite near the edge of a cliff! I can definitely say this is one of the most unique and beautiful campsites I have ever stayed at.
You don’t need a reservation and you can pretty much just put your tent anywhere in the designated area. There are lots of trees and privacy from your neighbours. The walk from our car to our site was maybe a 5-7 minute walk at most – wear good shoes! No reservations / walk-up camping was a godsend because a lot of campsites in Oregon are fully booked up or you need to reserve a year ahead of time!
The washrooms were incredibly clean. There were showers, but most people coming out of them were saying the water was pretty cold, so I decided to go without.
One of the many gorgeous views
Camp Cooking at Smith Rock
Since there are no campfires allowed in the Bivouac (the bivvy) area, we brought this little camping stove and a frying pan with us to make these delicious egg and bacon breakfast sandwiches with smashed avocado – yum! Cooking is allowed in a designated picnic area located in the middle of the parking lot and close to the sinks, washrooms and water. It’s nice because we chatted and met people from all over the US that drove down to climb Smith Rock.
See more of my camping meal ideas for your next camping trip.
Hiking Smith Rock
After breakfast, we washed up our dishes at the communal kitchen sink, put on our dri-fit hiking gear (it’s hot!), sunscreen and a hat and set off on a hike around the park. The area is mainly known as a rock climbing destination, but don’t let that deter you from seeing these gorgeous rock formations.
Misery Ridge Trail is exactly that. Full sun, hot and uphill with excellent views. Since we had our dog with us, we stuck with the lower Canyon Trail that had a bit more shade and ran along the river.
Make sure to fill up your water bottles at the bottom of the big hill before your hike and bring extra for your pup. It’s desert-like out here. Hike either first thing in the morning or late in the evening. The hottest point of the day seems to be around 3 or 4 pm.
If you want an easy hike, try the Rim Rock Trail that’s near the parking lot with some great viewpoints along the top. Homestead Trail (above) is also near a pretty viewpoint and parking lot, but make sure to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes. A dude playing Pokemon Go almost stepped on one 2 minutes after he saw us!
Views from the Canyon Trail
Get Charged Up
This is why I love the people of Oregon! Someone realized that we all needed a place to charge our phones and devices, that an anonymous donor donated this charging station that is located next to the washroom and showers for everyone to use. There’s even a nice park bench under a tree to sit on while you wait for your phone to charge.
Go River Tubing in Bend!
After a day of hiking and exploring, we drove down to Bend the next day to go river tubing along the Deschutes River. It’s pretty much a low intensity beer float lazy river.
For about $15 each I was able to rent a tube and lifejacket from Sun Country Tours in Riverbend Park. They do take credit cards and there are washrooms in the park you can use before your two-hour float. Parking is available at the park too.
BINGO had his brand new life jacket that we bought for tubing and was pretty chilled out relaxed about the whole thing. At one point, I think he even fell asleep. The tubing ends at Drake Park where a city shuttle ($3) will take you and your tube back to the initial parking lot which is about a 5-7 minute ride away.
After our tubing adventure, we drove over to The Old Mill District in Bend to grab lunch and stumbled across these pretty stairs. Kona Mix Plate is some of the BEST Hawaiian food I’ve had outside of Hawaii and their lunch plates are huge and around $10!
On our drive home, we saw this Hamburglar Jail for sale – only $4500!
Overall, we had a really great time visiting Smith Rock and if you’re looking for a last-minute camping trip with stunning views – this is it. Yes, lugging our stuff to the campsite was a bit of a pain, but it was great exercise and we only hiked in our tent, sleeping bags, camp chairs and camping mats. Everything else we left in our car.
Have you been to Smith Rock? What did you think?