Bend vs. beach: Why you should spring break in Bend, Oregon
February 16, 20246 minute read
Known as a “bona fide climbing town,” according to National Geographic Magazine, rock climbing in Bend, Oregon, is full of world-renowned rock, routes, epic scenery, and state-of-the-art indoor gyms.
Central Oregon offers a variety of climbing, from bouldering to sport and trad climbing. If you’re just starting out or would rather stay indoors, there are several indoor climbing gyms in Bend offering bouldering, climbing walls, and multiple routes for you to lead, autobelay, or top rope.
Bend is fortunate to be a short drive to the one of the most iconic outdoor climbing destinations in Oregon—Smith Rock. Home to hundreds of routes enticing climbers of all abilities from around the world, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, it’s a must-climb for vertical adventurers.
Climbing and bouldering around Bend can easily be enjoyed year-round. Indoor gyms make a great escape from the powder in the mountains. And because Smith Rock can see milder temperatures and conditions even in the season of snow, it can be a fantastic go-to for winter climbing.
There’s no doubt that there are loads of opportunities to ascend, scramble, send, solo, take your pick. So let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of climbing in and around Bend, including where to go.
Smith Rock is only 30 minutes north of Bend and offers close to 1500 trad and sport climbing routes in a range of difficulty, all with awe-inspiring vistas. It’s widely considered the birthplace of modern American sport climbing, bringing people from far and near to ascend its renowned routes. While close to half of the routes are single pitch, there are plenty of multi-pitch options for both trad and sport climbers.
The unique geology, towering tuff pillars and rugged basalt caprock, creates a climber’s paradise with fun and challenging terrain to navigate. The welded volcanic tuff provides durability and reliable holds, while the harder basalt creates diverse handholds and footholds.
The state park boasts several notable features. Among these, Monkey Face stands out as an iconic tower, resembling a monkey’s profile, offering a range of routes from Pioneer Route to the challenging Just Do It. The Mesa Verde Wall presents an expanse of tuff and basalt that invites climbers of different skill levels, featuring both sport and traditional routes against the backdrop of the Crooked River. The Dihedrals feature complex dihedral and corner climbs, providing an ideal playground for those who enjoy stemming and refining their technical skills.
Rest days offer the chance to explore some of the hiking options in the park. Trails such as Misery Ridge, Wolf Tree, and the Crooked River Trail offer spectacular views of the surrounding area, including the Crooked River.
Here are a few regulations and tips to be aware of while climbing at Smith Rock.
If you’re in need of a guide, you’ll find experienced American Mountain Guides Association-certified climbing guides at Smith Rock Climbing School and Chockstone Climbing Guides, both of which cater to climbers of various skill levels and ages. Smith Rock Climbing School provides customized climbing adventures, including private, group, and family-friendly guided trips to clinics that challenge and expand your skills. Chockstone Climbing Guides offers a wide range of climbing trips and programs led by local and experienced guides who know the best routes for your skill level. Both companies offer professional, friendly climbing instruction for all abilities and ages.
For climbing closer to Bend, Meadow Camp is a popular climbing area located just southwest of town, along the banks of the Deschutes River in the Deschutes National Forest. The cliff is made of strong basalt and ranges from 20 to 40 feet tall. While there are no bolts for sport climbing, there are several crack and corner climbs that are perfect for a quick ascent. It’s also a good place to learn to trad climb, as there are several easy crack climbs that are well-suited for beginners.
Trout Creek Climbing Area, located north of Smith Rock along the Deschutes River, is known for its columnar basalt formations, offering challenging climbs. It’s renowned for pure crack climbs, featuring vertical cracks in corners and stem-boxes on large basalt columns, rated from 5.10 to 5.13, with some easier crack climbs. The area includes The Cool Wall, The Main Wall, and The Northern End, offering a stunning backdrop of the Central Oregon landscape. Climbers should expect rough rock and consider taping their hands. Trout Creek closes from January 15 to August 31 each year to protect nesting golden eagles. This makes it an ideal place for fall climbing.
When climbing outdoors, please practice Bend’s Leave No Trace Principles. Always pack out any trash, like climbing tape, food wrappers, and water bottles, to ensure that the climbing areas remain pristine and litter-free.
Whether you want to solve a puzzle on the bouldering wall or you’re looking for an introduction to climbing with less risk, you’ll find fantastic options at one of Bend’s indoor climbing gyms.
Bend Rock Gym has three gyms, all in one location, that offer infinite possibilities. Their state-of-the-art facilities make it easy for all levels with classes, day passes, or punch cards, and they offer yoga for a relaxing cool-down.
The Circuit Bouldering Gym provides 20,000 square feet of climbing paradise with 200 routes and 25 new routes set every Friday. And when you’ve had enough, enjoy a full bar because you’re in Bend, and beer goes with almost everything.
If you plan to climb 5 or more times, Boardworks Climbing is a climbing gym that offers an innovative experience for climbers of all levels in an adult-only space. With its adjustable climbing walls, standardized interactive training boards, and full-service amenities, Boardworks Climbing is the perfect place to learn, train, and have fun. 5 and 10 punch card passes are available, with no expiration date.
If you need climbing gear rentals, local beta, or a new pair of shoes, head over to the experts at Mountain Supply.
Bend, Oregon, certainly stands as a rock climbing destination, offering a diverse range of opportunities for all abilities. From the world-renowned Smith Rock State Park with its iconic routes and breathtaking scenery to state-of-the-art indoor gyms like Bend Rock Gym and The Circuit Bouldering Gym, this region promises a memorable adventure for all who seek the thrill of the ascent.