How to Elope at Smith Rock State Park

Oregon, Resource

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12/02/2023


In this article, I’ll cover the hows, whens, wheres, and whys for your Smith Rock elopement planning experience.

Smith Rock— a perfect option for aventure elopements in Oregon

Did you know that most of Oregon is actually a desert? Yup, not just coastline, mossy forests, and fog— a vast majority of the state is high and dry. The deserts of Oregon are just as spectacular as the lush landscapes that Oregon is widely known for. And there are many gorgeous elopement locations to choose from.

One of Oregon’s most majestic and beloved desert locales is Smith Rock. Let this article be your guide on how to elope at Smith Rock State Park… the best elopement spots, date and weather considerations, the permitting requirements, culinary options and much more.

Let’s dive right in,  so you can fall in love with Central Oregon’s desert gem and plan your dream adventure elopement at Smith Rock State Park.

Need more Oregon elopement inspiration? Check out my guide on the 15 Best Spots to Elope in Oregon, or the 16 Best Spots to Elope Near Bend, OR.

Where is Smith Rock State Park?

First thing’s first— where is Smith Rock State Park? 

Smith Rock is located in the charming small town of Terrebonne, OR. About a 35 minute drive from the city of Bend. 

Bend is a popular tourist spot for people from all over the West Coast (and beyond). With its charming downtown area, lively eateries, plethora of breweries, myriad of recreation offerings,  and gorgeous scenery, it’s easy to understand why. 

Why choose Smith Rock?

Smith Rock is a perfect choice for an elopement because of the abundance of adventure opportunities available there. You can opt for flat terrain (near parking) for your ceremony if you have accessibility and mobility considerations, or you can scale a vertical rock wall to the cliff top …. Or  anything in between. All have equally epic views, which is rare to find.

Known as the birthplace of sport climbing, you might guess that it has amazing rock formations and cliffs. You’d be right. It is an awesome place, in the truest sense of the word— nothing short of  awe inspiring. The rocks tower hundreds of feet above the Crooked River, painted in rich shades of tan, pink, mauve, and pale green. As the sun moves across the sky, the cliff face change color.  It’s some of the most dramatic scenery in Central Oregon.

On top of that, the close proximity to Bend offers the opportunity extend  your elopement into a vacation or “minimoon.” 

Bend is flush with micro breweries, cider houses and bakeries …. perfect ambiance for celebrating your elopement. (Check out my starter guide to Central Oregon’s amazing wedding and elopement vendors.) The restaurant scene is equally robust….You can find any cuisine you crave for an elopement dinner, be it fish tacos, pad thai, or surf ‘n turf. Many  offer romantic river or majestic mountain views.

There is no shortage of accommodation options in Bend as well… hotels, vacation rentals, campgrounds, and dispersed camping land.  Read about some of these  below.

Geology of Smith Rock State Park

This one’s for the nature nerds out there—

The shape of this gorgeous landscape, like many in Oregon, comes from a violent past. Volcanoes!

Oregon is positively littered with volcanoes, making for scenery as interesting as it is beautiful. Smith Rock is actually the point where two calderas intersect— the Crooked River Caldera and the Newberry Caldera. Smith Rock’s iconic rock towers stand at the rim of the Crooked River Caldera, while the car park is at the edge of an ancient lava flow originating from the Newberry Caldera.

Smith Rock Tuff, the rock that makes up the towers that are the park’s main attraction, is the result of a catastrophic collapse of the Earth’s crust over a giant pocket of magma some 30 million years ago.  The crust crumbled and sank, while huge pyroclastic flows encompassed  the surrounding terrain. The superheated ash subsequently cooled and hardened, leaving behind these impressive and picturesque formations… perfect backdrops for adventure elopements!

FAQs about Eloping at Smith Rock State Park

What is the best time of year to elope at Smith Rock?

Most of the year is do-able, but the best months to elope at Smith Rock State Park are April-October. 

That being said, we are dealing with a desert climate here, so extremes should be expected. Summer temperatures can be quite hot. And quite dry. The days are long, but provide plenty of daylight for chronicling exhilarating and/or serene adventure elopements. 

Spring can be a bit more of a gamble. Central Oregon springtime could mean 80 degrees and clear skies, or deep chills and snow.  My advice….embrace it! Even with its unpredictability, it is my favorite time of year in this part of the world. The trees are leafing, and the desert plants are coming back to life.

What is the best time of day for a Smith Rock elopement?

It’s all about the golden hours for a Smith Rock Elopement… sunrise or sunset.  Both create lovely photographic memories, but sunset is probably better for lighting.

As the sun rises, it catches the face of the main tower and can create a somewhat harsh lighting situation. It’s not a deal-breaker, but creating the shimmery, golden images that many folks love can be a tad more challenging. 

That being said, sunrise is a much better time to find solitude in the park. Smith Rock State Park is immensely popular, and the parking lots fill easily by mid day. There are climbers aplenty, come to scale the dozens of popular routes up the rock face. 

So, when choosing the best time for your Smith Rock Elopement, take some time to weigh the different scenarios and decide what is most important to you. 

How much does it cost to elope at Smith Rock?

Smith Rock State Park as an elopement venue is a steal. There’s a $5 daily fee for parking… That’s it. 

If camping is part of your elopement itinerary, it’s still affordable. There’s an $8 charge per person, per night. A very reasonably priced night under the stars (temperamental weather permitting!).

Do we need a permit to elope at Smith Rock?

Nope! Not unless your guest count exceeds 20 people… which is inching out of elopement and into micro-wedding territory.  But Smith Rock is a beautiful spot for either. 

If you have more than 20 guests, you’ll need to reserve the amphitheater, which they actually do quite sparingly. About 1-2 times per month. If you go this route, contacting the park about availability should happen early in the planning process. 

Can we have guests at our Smith Rock elopment?

Yup! As stated in the last FAQ, guests are allowed at your Smith Rock elopement, but if you have 20 or more, you’ll need to reserve the park’s amphitheater. 

How accessible is it?

Accessibility in the park ranges from wheelchair friendly to mandatory harnesses and top ropes. 

If you have a guest with mobility considerations, there are plenty of beautiful spots along the upper rim, mere yards from the parking lot,  with amazing views of the river and the rock towers. 

There are gravel and paved trails that are quite flat, but the access road that drops into the canyon is very steep. You may decide  to do some elopement adventuring by yourselves, after exchanging vows up on the rim rock with your loved ones witnessing.

Can I bring my dog?

Yes 🙂 Your dog can attend your elopement at Smith Rock as long as they are on leash and under control.

What to pack for a Smith Rock Elopement

Well, in addition to the usual elopement accouterments — dress, flowers, hiking boots, vow books, rings, etc.— you’re gonna need to pack the ‘10 essentials’. This is an outdoor adventure, afterall… While Smith Rock isn’t an incredibly remote spot, it’s always wise to be prepared.

If unfamiliar with the ‘10 essentials’,  you can read this article. Packing list items more specific to a Smith Rock elopement include: 

  • Plenty of water. Summer temperatures can soar, and the air is basically always dry.
  • Sunscreen. At higher elevations, the sun is stronger. Smith Rock sits at over 3,000 feet, which may be a higher elevation than your body is used to. It can also be very exposed, with very little shade. 
  • Layers. Desert temperatures can swing wildly, even in the summer. 

Best spots to elope at Smith Rock State Park

  • Misery Ridge: This punishing hike is definitely worth the pain — the scenery is beyond spectacular. The views from the floor of the canyon are epic, and there’s something to be said for working up a sweat to get to them.. And imagine the humorous elopement story told afterwards…. “Where did you get married?” “Misery Ridge!” 
  • Rope-de-Dope: This trail is a little less than 1.5 miles, out and back, and offers lovely views of the canyon. It leads to some of the best beginner-friendly climbing routes in the park, if that’s what constitutes the ‘adventure’ in your “adventure elopement”!
  • Rimrock Trail: This trail skirts the edge of the canyon and is an easy walk. It’s about a mile total, and couldn’t be more accessible. It’s entirely paved or packed gravel, and is wheelchair-friendly and navigable for folks with other mobility considerations. It’s close to the parking lot, bathrooms and picnic tables.
  • Horse Ford: This is exactly what it sounds like— a place where folks on horseback ford the river. This area of the park is less traveled and has good views down the canyon. It’d be a lovely spot to exchange vows.
  • Summit Trail & Burma Road Loop: This is a long hike, about 6.5 miles if you take the Misery Ridge route. A little longer if you want to take the River Trail instead.
  • River Trail: Skirting the banks of the Crooked River, this trail is one of the most popular trails. It offers spectacular views without much elevation gain. Aside from the steep descent into the canyon, this hike isn’t too strenuous and is very scenic.
  • Wolf Tree Trail: This is basically a continuation of the River Trail— just turn right after crossing the footbridge instead of left. This is a slightly less visited trail, snaking  under towering walls that are closed to climbing during the nesting season (Golden Eagles build huge nests!). It leads to a big ponderosa pine with a large shaded area that’s great for cooling off on a hot day, or exchanging vows.
  • Asterisk Pass: This is definitely for the more adventurous. It’s a rock scramble between two large ridges, with an intriguing balancing rock. Probably tricky to manage in wedding attire, but really cool views, especially at sunrise.

Ideas for What To Do at Smith Rock for your Elopement

There are so many things to do and see in Bend (and Central Oregon in general), which makes it an excellent choice for an adventure elopement. 

Float the River – One of my favorite summer activities… so chill and so fun. Rent a tube (or bring your own) and crack open a beverage while you listen to music and leisurely float down the beautiful Deschutes River. Some of the best spots to float are: Sunriver, the Upper Deschutes, and Riverbend Park.

Visit one of Bend’s many breweries – See recommendations below.

Go fishing – You’ll find anglers all over the rivers of Central Oregon. 

Rock Climbing – This is an obvious one, as Smith Rock is the birthplace of sport climbing. There are many gear rentals and outfitter businesses if you don’t have your own gear.

Bungee Jumping – Oregon Bungee operates off of the Peter Skene Ogden Bridge nearby.  It boasts the tallest commercial bungee jump in North America. This one is for the real thrill seekers!

Pet some alpacas – Crescent Moon Ranch is a fun stop in Terrebonne. You can visit this alpaca farm for free! Or you can pay $5 for alpaca chow to bribe the big critters for some love and attention.

Pumpkin Patch – In the fall, you can visit the pumpkin patch, just across the road from the alpaca ranch. Pick some fancy pumpkin varieties and wander around the corn maze (which was shaped like Spongebob this year!)

Go wine tasting – Central Oregon has a thriving wine scene. Two spots near Smith Rock State Park worth checking out are Faith Hope and Charity Vineyards and Maragas Vineyards

Lodging Options

Being a desirable destination for vacationers all across the pacific northwest, Bend has no shortage of lodging options. Vacation rentals, hotels, resorts, campsites— Central Oregon has it all.

Hotels and Resorts

  • Riverhouse on the Deschutes: Nestled along the picturesque Deschutes River, the Riverhouse is a haven for those seeking both luxury and natural beauty. Its spacious rooms and riverside views create a serene atmosphere, perfect for couples who wish to unwind after their elopement adventure.
  • Seventh Mountain Resort: Seventh Mountain Resort offers a unique blend of adventure and comfort. Choose from a range of accommodations, from cozy condos to upscale suites, and enjoy easy access to nearby trails and outdoor activities, making it an ideal choice for adventurous elopers.
  • Loge: For a stay that seamlessly connects with the Central Oregon landscape, Loge is the answer. Experience a stay in at a unique hotel that makes your elopement feel like a genuine experience— with a variety of activities, common areas, a pool, games, gear rentals and a bar. In town, but close to Mount Bachelor, it’s the perfect match for nature-loving couples. 
  • McMenamin’s St. Francis Hotel: McMenamin’s St. Francis Hotel, located in the heart of Bend, Oregon, offers a unique and historic place to stay for your elopement adventure. Housed in a former Catholic school, this charming hotel provides a blend of vintage charm and modern comfort. With comfortable rooms, a cozy pub, and an inviting courtyard, it’s a delightful choice for couples looking for a romantic and character-filled lodging option in Bend. Its central downtown location ensures easy access to the city’s attractions.o 
  • Campfire Hotel: If you’re looking to explore Bend’s vibrant culture after your elopement, Campfire Hotel is the urban oasis you need. It combines modernity with local charm, offering comfortable rooms and proximity to the city’s vibrant nightlife. 
  • Oxford Hotel: Bend’s Oxford Hotel is a touch of urban luxury in the heart of the outdoors. Stay here for a high-end experience that’s complemented by the convenience of being close to the city’s attractions.
  • Tetherow: Tetherow is a golfer’s paradise and a haven for those seeking luxury in nature. Stay in the finest accommodations and enjoy the lovely golf course and picturesque grounds.
  • Brasada Ranch: Experience the rustic charm and luxury that Brasada Ranch has to offer. There is a luxurious spa and stunning views— perfect for couples who wish to combine the natural beauty of Central Oregon with elegant accommodations for their elopement. 
  • Black Butte Ranch: For those looking to embrace the peaceful ambiance of the forest, Black Butte Ranch is a classic choice. It’s cozy log cabins are surrounded by pristine woodlands, offering an intimate elopement experience.
  • Pronghorn Resort: Pronghorn Resort is synonymous with opulence and offers a luxurious backdrop for your special day. Enjoy lavish amenities and beautiful surroundings for a truly unforgettable elopement.
  • Sunriver Resort: Sunriver Resort provides a diverse range of accommodations and activities for eloping couples. It’s the go-to destination for elopement experiences filled with comfort and adventure.
  • Five Pines Lodge: Tucked away in nearby Sisters, Five Pines Lodge offers serenity and charm. It’s an ideal location for couples who desire a tranquil setting and rustic allure on their special day.
  • Best Western Ponderosa Lodge: A welcoming and comfortable choice in the heart of Bend, Best Western Ponderosa Lodge offers familiar, cozy accommodations for a convenient elopement stay. Not to mention the alpaca pasture right next door… 
  • Suttle Lodge: For an authentic mountain experience, the Suttle Lodge brings the charm of a vintage forest retreat. Expect cozy cabins in an attractive rustic setting.
  • SCP Hotel: A hip and modern option in Bend, the SCP Hotel features a trendy rooftop bar, perfect for couples who want to add some urbane style to their elopement experience. 
  • Eagle Crest Resort: With a variety of accommodations and activities, Eagle Crest Resort provides something for everyone’s taste.
  • Crooked River Ranch: Embrace the rugged side of Central Oregon with a rustic elopement experience, a blend of camping and luxury.
  • Juniper Preserve Lodge: Experience the tranquility of the high desert while staying close to Bend. It’s an ideal place to relax and recharge before or after your elopement.

AirBnBs in Central Oregon

Bend and Central Oregon are absolutely packed with amazing vacation rentals. Along rivers, in the mountains, downtown… Whatever your vibe, there’s a rental for you.

Here’s a few options to get you started.

  • This adorable riverside rental: A charming, romantic riverside rental that sets the stage for an intimate elopement surrounded by nature’s beauty.
  • A big, beautiful log cabin on the Deschutes: Immerse yourself in rustic elegance with this log cabin right on the Deschutes River, providing a cozy and tranquil environment for your elopement.
  • Luxurious A-Frame in Sisters: This luxurious A-Frame in Sisters is the epitome of style and comfort, offering a perfect backdrop for a memorable elopement.
  • A creekside cabin in the mountains: Serenity and grandeur meet in this cabin by the creek, making it an idyllic setting for an elopement, offering tranquility and natural beauty.
  • This biggish tiny house in Tumalo: A charming tiny house with plenty of space, nestled in Tumalo, perfect for couples who seek coziness and charm for their elopement.
  • This cabin with sweeping mountain views: Experience the grandeur of the mountains from this cabin, providing a magnificent backdrop for your elopement in the great outdoors.
  • A casita at the foot of Smith Rock: For eloping at Smith Rock, this casita offers convenience and stunning views, making it a convenient base for your adventurous day.
  • A tucked away lodge in Terrebonne: A secluded and peaceful lodge conveniently located near Smith Ranch. This will appeal to those seeking  tranquil and private accommodations near Smith Ranch State Park. 

There is really no shortage of AirBnB options for your elopement. This list is a good sampling of the types of vacation rentals you can find in Central Oregon. 

Camping Options & RV Parks

  • Smith Rock State Park Bivouac Campground: Nestled amidst the dramatic cliffs of Smith Rock, this campground is a nature lover’s paradise. With various camping spots, it’s an excellent choice for eloping couples who wish to experience the natural beauty of the park up close. But it’s first come first served so it’s best to have a backup plan.
  • Skull Hollow Campground: If you’re seeking a secluded and rustic camping experience, Skull Hollow is your best bet. It’s a perfect location for couples who want to embrace the wilderness while enjoying Smith Rock’s proximity.
  • Cove Palisades State Park: Located on the shores of Lake Billy Chinook, Cove Palisades offers a range of camping options, from RV sites to tent camping. The lake views are stunning.
  • Oregon Badlands: For a truly off-the-grid elopement, explore the vast, rugged terrain of the Oregon Badlands. This remote area is ideal for couples who crave the authentic experience of wild Central Oregon. Plus it’s BLM land, so camping is FREE!
  • Phil’s Trailhead: If you’re passionate about mountain biking and hiking, Phil’s Trailhead offers easy access to a network of trails that crisscross the forested landscape.
  • Smiling River Campground: Located along the Crooked River, Smiling River Campground is a tranquil spot for couples who want a scenic, peaceful outdoor elopement.
  • Sisters Creekside Campground: Sisters Creekside Campground provides a serene backdrop for a forest-themed elopement. There are riverfront campsites in a peaceful wooded setting.
  • Suttle Lake Campground: Experience lakeside camping at Suttle Lake, reveling in the natural beauty of the Deschutes National Forest. 
  • Perry South Campground at Lake Billy Chinook: This lakeside campground at Lake Billy Chinook is an excellent choice for couples seeking water-based activities ( like paddle boarding and kayakin) in a scenic setting.
  • Big Country RV: If you prefer the comfort of an RV, Big Country RV is an excellent choice. Conveniently located in Bend, it’s great for couples who want to explore the region with flexibility and comfort.
  • Copper Ridge RV Resort: This upscale RV resort near the Deschutes River offers a blend of luxury and nature. Enjoy a range of amenities and proximity to Central Oregon’s finest recreational attractions.

Eateries (& Drinkeries) 

Restaurants

900 Wall

Bos Taurus 

Greg’s Grill

Anthony’s

Ariana

Zydeco

Noi Thai

Brickhouse

Dear Irene

McMenamin’s Old St. Francis School

DRAKE

The Lemon Tree

The Victorian Cafe

Chow

Nancy P’s

Jackson’s Corner

Breweries & Cocktails

Holy moly, there are tons of breweries in Central Oregon. For a complete guide, check out this article. But here’s some of my favorites.

Bend Brewing Co

Silvermoon Brewing

Crux Fermentation Project

Worthy

Monkless

Avid Cider Co.

The cocktail scene in Bend is not as big as the brewery and dive bar scene, but there are some spots to grab a tasty, complex drink.

Velvet

Dogwood Cocktail Cabin

The Flamingo Room

The Broom Closet

San Simon

Food Truck Pods

Something I deeply love about Oregon is the culture of food truck pods. Even better, in Bend, they are almost always attached to a taproom or bar of some sort. 

It solves so many dining problems, like “where should we go to eat?” Now you can just meet at Podski— I’ll get pierogies and you can get pad thai. And we can both get a beer.

The Office @ Silvermoon

The Crosscut Warming Hut

Podski

On Tap

River’s Place

Midtown Yacht Club

The Lot off Galveston

The Patio @ 9th Street

The Bite in Tumalo (my regular watering hole!)

The Barn in Sisters

Here’s an article with some more info on most of these spots.

Other Hiking spots nearby 

So you’re spending a few days in Central Oregon for your Smith Rock elopement and want to check out other spots. Here’s a few recommendations— a list with a variety of landscapes to spark inspiration.

Skull Hollow

Grey Butte

Tam-a-lau Trail at Cove Palisades

Alder Springs

Steelhead Falls

Crooked River Canyon Overlook

Peterson Ridge

Wychus Creek

Peak View Trail

Tam McArthur Rim

Suttle Lake

Black Butte

Smith Rock Elopement Photographer

Hey there 🙂 I’m Ginger, the photographer and owner at Tule Walks. Your local Smith Rock elopement expert, here to hold your hand through the planning process. I live in Bend and frequent Smith Rock for business and pleasure. 

I’m all about curating your elopement day to fit your needs and your style. Obsessed with wandering through nature, authentic moments, and telling your story. If you’re looking for a Smith Rock Elopement Photographer to document your day, whether it involves trekking miles to the perfect spot for vow exchanges, or chilling at a charming AirBnB for most of the day (while awaiting a golden hour session perhaps?) I’ve got you covered.

If you need or want more info about eloping in Bend and the rest of Central Oregon, check out these resources.

How to Elope in Bend, OR

Starter Guide to Central Oregon’s Wedding Vendors

15 Spots to Elope near Bend, OR

Smith Rock Elopement Packages & Pricing

When you are ready to hire an Oregon elopement photographer, I’d be honored to be considered. 

I love all things Oregon Elopement and  would be so excited to help you plan your magical day in this beautiful state, whether it’s at Smith Rock or some other awe inspiring elopement location (there are so many in Oregon).

Check out my pricing page for more information.

How to Elope at Smith Rock State Park

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