Post Summary: Did you know that Oregon has an EPIC desert just waiting for you to explore?! Yup, that’s right – Oregon isn’t just beaches, rainforests, and waterfalls: the high desert of central Oregon is an absolutely magical place, and makes for an incredible elopement location. This is an in-depth guide to how to elope at Smith Rock State Park, the best Smith Rock State Park elopement locations, what permits you’ll need, & SO much more. Get ready to fall in love with central Oregon and the spectacular desert atmosphere it has to offer!
Looking for more locations in Oregon to consider for your elopement? I’ve got you covered with my complete guide to the 20 Best Places to Elope in Oregon in 2023!
Where is Smith Rock State Park?
First of all, where even is Smith Rock?
Smith Rock State Park is located in the high desert of central Oregon, near the communities of Redmond and Terrebonne. The park is about 35 minutes northeast of downtown Bend, 3 hours southeast of Portland, and 6 hours northeast of Brookings on the southernmost tip of the Oregon Coast.
How to get to Smith Rock State Park
If you’ll be flying in from out of state for your Smith Rock State Park elopement, you’ll want to fly into Portland International Airport (PDX), rent a car, and make the 3-hour drive to central Oregon. There IS a closer airport, the Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM), if you’re down to pay a bit more to get closer to the park – about 20 minutes away from Smith Rock! You can find more details about local transportation here if you decide to fly into the Redmond airport and opt for public transportation over renting a car.
Why Elope at Smith Rock State Park?
There are SO many reasons to elope at Smith Rock State Park, starting with the absolutely stunning rock formations it’s known for. The massive, jagged rocks are an iconic landmark in central Oregon’s high desert, and make for THE most stunning backdrop for any type of elopement ceremony. Whether you want to go hiking, mountain biking, climbing, or want to stick to a shorter, easier walk, there are options for everybody at Smith Rock (except there are NOT a many wheelchair-accessible spots) & every level of adventure. The park has some of the best rock climbing in the PNW, and when I tell you that golden hour in this desert environment is magical, I mean magical. Nothing beats the golden drops of sun covering the dramatic cliffs and the golden fields of grass in the summertime!
FAQ’s About Eloping at Smith Rock State Park
What is the best season to elope at Smith Rock State Park?
I would say that the best time to elope at Smith Rock State Park is between the months of April-October!
Summer at Smith Rock gets extremely hot since it’s the high desert, so while summer is a great time for long days & plenty of light, be prepared for hot and dry weather! You’d be surprised at how cold sunrise can be even in the summer, though – so don’t forget to bring layers just in case, no matter the time of year.
Keep in mind that summer is typically the busiest season at Smith Rock, as well as late spring & early fall since temps are more mild and better for hiking/climbing! You can totally elope at Smith Rock in the winter, too, if you’re down for chilly temperatures and the possibility of snow.
What is the best time of day to elope at Smith Rock State Park?
If you’re wanting the best light for your elopement ceremony, then sunset is by far the best time to elope at Smith Rock! Golden hour in the high desert is freaking MAGICAL.
Unfortunately, the morning light in the park is not the most flattering, as it hits right on Smith Rock & makes it difficult to see without going down into the valley. So I’d recommend having your Smith Rock elopement ceremony & taking portraits at sunset – unless you want an all-day hiking adventure, in which case you could start pre-dawn and spend the whole day exploring!
Plus, the park is open from dawn to dusk, so you won’t have to worry about park hours outside of when the sun is out.
Do you have to pay to park at Smith Rock State Park?
Yep! To park at Smith Rock State Park, you’ll need to pay a $5 day-use fee at one of the parking lot fee stations. If you plan on visiting the park 6+ times per year, you can buy an annual pass for $30 instead – or even a 2-year pass for $50!
Do I need a permit to elope at Smith Rock State Park?
Permits aren’t required for weddings at Smith Rock unless your guest count is over 20 – in which case you’ll need to contact park management & reserve the amphitheater. They only allow 1-2 weddings per month at the amphitheater, which has space for 50 guests, so you’ll want to reserve that ASAP to make sure you can get a date!
Keep in mind that because of the size of the trails at Smith Rock, I’d say that the ideal amount of guests for an elopement would be no more than 10 people.
To learn more about getting the appropriate elopement permits for different places in Oregon, check out my informational guide to How to Get Permits for Your Oregon Elopement [Updated for 2023]!
How accessible is Smith Rock State Park?
While the classic view from the top of Smith Rock State Park is fairly accessible, the road down to the valley is unfortunately extremely steep and not accessible at all.
If you’d like more detailed information, this article from the Disabled Hikers website goes into more depth with a great review of accessibility at Smith Rock State Park!
If you’re looking for a more accessible Oregon elopement location, don’t worry! Check out these 26 ADA-Accessible Elopement Locations in Oregon – or these ones in Washington if you’re looking for spots a little further north.
Can I bring my dog to my Smith Rock State Park elopement?
Yes! As long as they are on leash and stay on trails, you can (and definitely should) bring your pups to your Smith Rock elopement 🙂
What should I pack for my Smith Rock State Park elopement?
Aside from your typical hiking gear & elopement attire/accessories, make sure you bring LOTS of water so you can stay hydrated! Especially if you’re eloping in the summer, it is super easy to get dehydrated at Smith Rock because of how hot and dry the climate is. So fill up your reusable water bottles and throw a couple of extras into your backpack if you can!
You’ll also want to make sure to bring LAYERS, even if you’re eloping in the summer. Seriously, you’d be surprised at how chilly the temperatures can be at sunrise even in the summer, so be sure to pack your warmest layers that you can put on if need be.
Can you get drone footage of our elopement at Smith Rock State Park?
Sadly, drones are not allowed from January 15-August 1 in order to protect golden eagle & falcon nesting areas, so if you’re eloping anytime before August, I won’t be able to get any drone footage of your elopement. Note that some climbing areas are also limited during this time, so be sure to do research in advance if you want to go climbing on your big day! You can read more about seasonal nesting closures in the park here.
Can you have campfires at Smith Rock State Park?
Campfires aren’t allowed at any time of year due to the dry high desert environment, so you’ll have to stick to lanterns for light, or book an Airbnb with a safe fire pit if you want to end the day with some s’mores!
5 Best Locations to Elope in Smith Rock State Park
Let’s move on to WHERE you should actually go inside of Smith Rock State Park – because there’s a lot of ground to cover! While the whole park is totally gorgeous, there are a few specific spots that make for the best elopement ceremony and/or portrait locations. Below are the top 5 best places to elope in Smith Rock State Park based on my past elopements + experiences!
1. Misery Ridge
If you’re looking for a bit of an adventure for your Smith Rock elopement, then Misery Ridge will be an epic option for you! You can simply take the 0.68 mile trail from the bridge to the summit to get some awesome views, orrrr you can opt for the 6-mile loop trail that takes you up and down the rocky landscape, through switchbacks, and past the “Monkey Face, an iconic part of the park. Make sure you’re careful to follow the wooden steps in place on parts of this crumbling trail, as stepping off of them can cause even more trail erosion & damage!
2. Horse Ford
Horse Ford is a great, lesser-known spot that you can visit by crossing the Crooked River, and even acts as a shortcut for the 2.5-mile River Trail!
Rope-de-Dope is a great 1.3-mile out-and-back trail that takes you up a fairly steep descent, but is fairly easy otherwise and gets you fantastic views in the end. It’s also one of the best climbing spots in the park if you want to go climbing on your elopement day – see more deets here! This one can get crowded since it’s pretty popular, and is a great addition to the Rim Rock Trail if you want to combine the two.
If you’re looking for a super easy trail that’s wheelchair-accessible, kid-friendly, and provides beautiful views of the rock formations + the valley below, Rim Rock Trail is the one for you! It’s just 1 mile out-and-back, with barely any elevation gain, and the entire trail surface is made up of packed gravel, meaning it’s navigable for most people using wheelchairs or any type of mobility equipment. There are also picnic tables along the trail for resting, as well as wheelchair-accessible restrooms! It’s definitely a popular trail, so visit early in the morning if you’re looking to avoid crowds as much as possible – or just be prepared to be around other visitors while you explore.
5. My “Secret Elopement Spot”
And I’ve got one more location up my sleeve, but it’s a secret I keep for my booked couples 😉 It’s by far the NUMBER 1 spot in Smith Rock State Park for elopements – you get a classic view of Smith Rock with the valley and river below, plus it’s super close to the entrance & very accessible. When you book me as your Smith Rock elopement photographer you’ll get alllll the deets!
Honorary Mention: Sparks Lake
I wanted to include Sparks Lake on here because although it’s not a part of Smith Rock State Park, it’s located about 25 miles west of Bend and is SUCH a stunning place to visit if you have the time (pictured below)!
Best Lodging Near Smith Rock State Park for Your Elopement
Smith Rock State Park Airbnbs
Bend has TONS of unique, adorable, & cozy as heck Airbnbs that will make you never ever want to leave. I’ve included a few of the top-rated stays in the Bend area below, ranging from a dome-shaped home to an adorable boutique studio alllll the way to a trendy A-frame!
- Dome Sweet Dome
- Pet-Friendly Midtown House
- Stylish Modern A-Frame
- Nature-Inspired Boutique Studio
- Architectural Bungalow
Smith Rock State Park Camping
If you’d rather cozy up under the stars, I’d recommend staying at Smith Rock’s walk-in Bivouac (Bivy) Campground, which is open from March 15-November 15! Camping permits are sold on a nightly basis for $8/person/night, and that fee includes a one-day parking permit as well as use of the campground showers.
Unique Smith Rock State Park Elopement Ideas
So now you know allll about Smith Rock State Park and why I LOVE it so much as an elopement location – but what can you actually do in the area?! I freaking love Bend so much and there are SO many fun things to do. If you have time to spend multiple days or even a week there for your elopement, I highly recommend it!
Here are a few fun things to do for your Smith Rock elopement, either within the park itself or in the surrounding areas:
- Go rock climbing – a must-do for adventurous couples because Smith Rock is actually known as the birthplace of U.S. sport climbing!
- Go fishing
- Have a picnic on the rocks at sunset
- Visit local breweries in downtown Bend
- Float down the Deschutes River (or go white water rafting for more of a thrill!)
- Decorate your hiking backpacks with “just married” signs
- Wear customized jackets for your elopement portraits
Hi friend! I’m Katie, your friendly neighborhood Smith Rock State Park elopement photographer, obsessed with all things adventure, love, and storytelling. I’m all about helping my couples dream up intentionally-crafted elopements, telling your love story in the most authentic way possible, and encouraging you to make your day whatever the heck you want it to be.
If you’re looking for a Smith Rock elopement photographer to document your desert adventure, whether you’re going on a multi-mile hike to your ceremony spot with your best friends or want to have an intimate ceremony at your Airbnb & then head to the park for sunset portraits, I’ll be there for it ALL. You can take a look at more of my work & learn more about me on my website here, and reach out here if you’re interested in booking me for your special day!
When it comes time for you to hire your Oregon elopement photographer, I’d freaking love to be considered! I’m an expert at all things Oregon elopements, so I’d be honored to help you plan your dream day at this stunning park full of beautiful landscapes & opportunities.
Take a look at my pricing below, and when you’re ready, contact me here so we can get this party started!
Elopement Packages and Pricing for Oregon
- 4 hours – 2 days of elopement photography coverage anywhere in Oregon
- Your own personal elopement guide & consultant
- Unique and personalized location scouting
- Vendor recommendations
- Permit and marriage license assistance
- Hand-crafted elopement timeline
- Created just-for-you activity list
- Unlimited guides and resources
- 100+ page How to Elope Guidebook
- Optional complimentary officiant service
- Digital online gallery with full resolution image and printing rights
- Sneak peek images within 1 week
- Photographer travel fees covered anywhere in Oregon
Starting at $4,500
For more PNW elopement inspiration, tips & tricks, and in-depth resources, take a look at my blog! I’ve linked some of my top favorite guides below for you to check out that I KNOW you’ll love if you enjoyed this one 😉
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In order to make your dream elopement day happen, it's super important that we connect and that you feel comfortable with me! The best way to do this is to reach out and schedule a call so you can learn more about me and I can learn about you two so i can document what's real + the most important to you.