Why be Miserable? Take the Shady Way Up to Misery Ridge, or another Path Less Traveled.
July 4, 2017
It's become a right-of-passage at Smith Rock State Park. Head across the bridge and straight up the "mountain" to the top of Misery Ridge. At times it looks like a giant conga line as hikers of all ages and fitness levels look for the quickest way up to the great views below, often unprepared.
Take the outside temperature, this week headed for the high 90s for several days, and add at least 10° to that. That's the amplification that the rock walls give. While welcome in the winter months, it can mean heat exhaustion in no time at all for some.
We've seen even fit 20-somethings pass out on the trail. Rescues in the summer months are often due to hikers on the Misery Ridge Trail not bringing enough water, exceeding their fitness level, poor shoe traction and not keeping their weight balanced when coming downhill.
And sadly, we've seen many drag their dogs up there. Remember their bare paws are on that hot scree surface and that they need water too.
First of all, it's not a mountain. It's the ridgeline of a 550-foot rock wall. The challenge is its steepness since it rises that height in less than a mile of trail switchbacks. Secondly, at this time of the year, that short distance can have devastating consequences on those who choose to go up when it's in full sun.
Still, we understand you want the views. There is an option however if you arrive after 9:00 AM on a summer day.
Take a left across the bridge and take the River Trail to the shady side of the park. From there, go up Mesa Verde Trail by the base of Monkey Face to the Misery Ridge Trail. From there it's a couple of longer switchbacks to the top, but you get to come back to the bridge going DOWN in the sun, not up. It's called the Reverse Misery Loop Trail, detailed here, including an elevation graph and Google Map we've added the route to, with formations to see along the way.
Want to mix it up a bit and see other parts of the park? Check out the rest of our Suggested Hikes. There's something for everyone there, from easy to difficult, ranging from 1.8 to 7.3 miles.