Monday, November 18, 2013

Hiking and Camping in Central Oregon's High Desert

In the past month I've been lucky enough to camp and hike in Central Oregon's high desert a couple of times. Because Portland is a temperate oceanic climate and the woods around Portland often look like Southeastern Alaska's temperate rainforest I'm pretty much used to a damp climate, so it's always kind of weird and special for me to go to deserts. It doesn't happen often, so it's exciting when it does!

In October and November I've gone to Bend, camped in Tumalo State Park, and climbed Smith Rock twice each. I also got to stay at the Prineville Reservoir in October, which was gorgeous. These photos are all from the October trip. The weather was pretty warm still and I felt like dying of heat and exertion while climbing Smith Rock, but it was still worth it to see the view at the top!

The drive to Bend is about three hours from Portland. Plus, it's beautiful! Tumalo State Park is fifteen minutes or so outside downtown Bend. I've stayed in both my tent and a yurt there and, I gotta say, the yurts there are the fanciest I've stayed in! Fancy because the heaters are really good and when you are arriving at night in low-30s temps, having a blast of heat when you enter the yurt is kinda nice!

The drive from Bend to Prineville is a little less than an hour but driving to the reservoir adds some time, about half an hour. It's a slow and windy road, but worth it when you see the views of the reservoir. It's gorgeous! We had reserved a tent site back in the lot but were lucky enough to change to a spot looking right out over the water. Pretty spectacular!

Getting to Smith Rock was easy from both Bend and the reservoir, a little less than an hour from both places. Smith Rock's highest point is around 3000' in elevation. I've now gone on the Misery Ridge trail on both visits and it's pretty awesome. I've started both ways and I prefer going the way that starts to the right of the footbridge you have to cross over. It's steep all the way to the summit, but then you don't have to deal with all the switchbacks otherwise. But it's all beautiful so just go check it out for yourself!

Prineville Reservoir

Sunset over the reservoir was gorgeous, as you can see!

Early afternoon at Smith Rock was gorgeous!!

Monkey Face rock - do you see it?


I had a wonderful time and I definitely can't wait to go back and adventure more in Central Oregon!


  1. LOVE these!! We love Prineville, but sadly, we've yet to hike Smith Rock. Definitely on my list!! Your photos are beautiful!!

    1. Thank you!! It was so gorgeous on our Wednesday trip last week, as well!