Oregon parks officials plan changes at Smith Rock

By Emily Cureton Cook (OPB)
BEND, Ore. March 27, 2023 8:25 p.m.

A new master plan would address parking and traffic problems after more than 30 years of visitor growth

Smith Rock State Park is poised to get a makeover this year, with state officials seeking public input on the plans.

The popular stop near Terrebonne is a magnet for rock climbers, photographers, nesting raptors and others seeking sublime views of Central Oregon.


The annual number of people visiting Smith Rock has tripled since 1991.

That’s when the park’s master plan was last updated. This year, state officials are revamping the plan, which promises to guide the construction of a new visitor center with better parking, traffic flow and improvements to some trails.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department expects to publish a draft 20-year master plan on its website by April 10 and will take public comments on the document through May 15.

A man walks hand-in-hand with a small boy in Smith Rock State Park on May 16, 2020.

FILE - A man walks hand-in-hand with a small boy in Smith Rock State Park on May 16, 2020.

Stephani Gordon / OPB

“People love this park, and they love it the way it is,” said OPRD planner Jenna Marmon. “We’re trying to make minor adjustments in both the physical park and the management strategies to resolve some of the bigger issues, while recognizing that love for the park.”

Parking concerns are top of mind, Marmon said, describing how drivers on the hunt for a spot will clog traffic by waiting or circling. Then, the overflow backs onto a Deschutes County road.

“It’s a safety concern,” Marmon said.

Statewide, Oregon’s most beloved day-use areas are increasingly popular, said OPRD spokesperson Chris Havel. He cited a 25% increase in daytime visits to state parks over the last decades, which outsteps the state’s population increase of 9%.

Improvements to state parks aim to do two things, Havel added: “Provide more service through existing facilities and open new opportunities without sacrificing park resources.”

On April 10, OPRD will host two informational meetings about its plans at Smith Rock: at 3 p.m. virtually, and at 6 p.m. in Bend, at the Bend Park and Recreation District Office, 799 SW Columbia St.

The draft plan will then be presented to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission for adoption at its June 2023 meeting.