Allie Colosky
The Bulletin

The heights of Smith Rock were shrouded in fog, but bundled-up hikers set out on the various trails at Smith Rock State Park for a New Year’s Day hike.

Temperatures hovered just below freezing at 10 a.m. Monday when a group of 35 hikers took to the steep hill at the trailhead. Bundled in hats, gloves and scarves, some hikers traveled into Terrebonne specifically for the Smith Rock First Day Hike, an annual event offered by Oregon State Parks, while some locals took advantage of the trails as a way to ring in the new year.

The group continued down the River Trail, stopping every so often to learn about the various wildlife and geographical features in the park.

An otter swimming by in the Crooked River drew excitement from the crowd.

For Bend’s Polly Howard, 66, returning to Smith Rock for the First Day Hike was the best way she could start the new year, she said. Howard missed the hike in 2017 due to snow.

“It’s a wonderful way to start the year off on such a strong and positive note,” she said.

Despite the chilly temperatures and the lingering fog, multiple hikers ventured on other trails including Misery Ridge, a more difficult trail with a steep incline.

Howard said a cheerful, “Happy New Years!” to nearly every hiker who passed by.

“I almost didn’t even go,” she said, “and I can barely even talk because my lips are frozen.”

Howard moved to Bend 10 years ago, and as she gets older, she makes sure to take advantage of the opportunity to hike in the beauty Oregon has to offer. Struggling with minor leg pains, Howard doesn’t stay on the trails as long as she used to, she said.

“I’m just thankful to even be here,” Howard said. “I’m using today to motivate myself to get my legs stronger this year.”

The chilly temperatures might have deterred some hikers, but Sam Smith, 11, and his brother Eddy, 9, were still excited, they said, though they wished it was a bit warmer.

“I guess it is January,” said their father, Sunil Smith.

Smith, 35, of Beaverton, and his family have been hiking on New Year’s Day for four years now. Their tradition began in Wisconsin, before they moved to Oregon in 2016.

At the beginning of the hike, Smith and his wife, Holly, 35, compared the views over the Crooked River and the large crags of Smith Rock with previous First Day Hikes they have done, and remained confident this year’s location was going to be the best, Sunil said.

“We came into town for this, for this hike specifically,” he said. The Smiths celebrated New Year’s Eve in Central Oregon and spent two nights in Prineville, before their drive back to Beaverton on Monday afternoon.

Smith Rock State Park offers free parking to any hikers on New Year’s Day as an opportunity to explore the park if hikers can brave the chillier temperatures.

“How could you not want to take advantage of this?” Holly Smith said. “It’s so beautiful here. Just a wonderful way to start the year off, right?”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,