We were in Central Oregon to pick Dominique up from college and took the opportunity to hike in the Smith Rock area. We had hiked in the state park twice before, both times taking the Misery Ridge Trail up and over the summit and completing a loop via the River Trail. For this visit we decided to access the park via the Gray Butte Trail which passed through the Forest Service administered Crooked River Grassland and BLM managed lands before reaching the park trails. We parked at a trail junction along Gray Butte Saddle where the Cole Loop Trail (854) meets the Gray Butte Trail (852).
The trail traversed a hillside amid scattered juniper trees and sagebrush. Despite being a little late in the year for the best flower displays there were still clumps of color scattered along the trail.
Shortly after crossing the road the trail and road intersected again. This second junction proved confusing and after several minutes reviewing our maps we decided to head up a hillside along another old road.
This wound up being incorrect. At the second junction we should have taken a clear trail that veered down and slightly to the right along the side of the ridge. There was also a trail further to the right that just ended atop a little crest. The route we took led almost 400′ up to the summit of an unnamed butte. We climbed steeply for over half a mile before arriving at the rocky summit. It was only after reaching the top that we knew we had taken a wrong turn. Actually Dominique had been fairly certain we should have taken the right hand fork but that didn’t seem to jive with the map we were looking at. In any event the views from the top were amazing including a good look at Mt. Hood far to the NW.
We were now on the Summit Trail in Smith Rock State Park and heading for the Mesa Verde Trail. At a viewpoint along the way we could see the Crooked River as it was winding through the park as well as a section of the Misery Ridge Trail that we would be descending later on.
As mentioned before this was our third time on the Misery Ridge Trail but the first time we had gone up from this side. We all agreed it was actually easier to go up this side than down it due to the loose dirt and rocks that make the trail slick. We followed the switchbacks up along Monkey Face to the busy summit where the view is worthy of a long look.
We had a .9 mile climb up Burma Road to get back to the Gray Butte Trail junction. The road passed by a canal and reentered BLM lands. It was another fairly steep climb with the sun beating down on us, but we managed to make it up to the junction.
What should have been a 10.5 mile hike had turned into 12.1 miles thanks to our little detour but it had been well worth it. This was a tough hike and probably best during the month of May, but it was packed with big views, plenty of wildlife, various wildflowers, and lots interesting scenery. Happy Trails!