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Spring in Oregon’s High Desert

0520 your frame winner Bob Stanton Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon
Cliffs at Smith Rock State Park, by Bob Stanton

One of the Northwest’s driest places offers incredible sights

May through October is hot air ballooning season at Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon, where AAA Washington member Bob Stanton took this photo.

Ballooning offers views from the perspective of the peregrine falcons, golden eagles and prairie falcons that nest in these volcanic cliffs above the Crooked River. This state park near Terrebonne, Oregon, is world-famous for rock climbing, with thousands of routes old and new for beginners through experts.

“Fantastic trails and views just of Bend and just off the main drag of Redmond,” said Stanton, who lives in Bellingham, Washington. “Tumalo Falls is spectacular, as well as the mile-long lava tube that you can walk.”

The tube is Deschutes National Forest’s Lava River Cave, which is usually open May through September.

River rafting was another highlight of Stanton’s trip to Oregon’s High Desert, where the dry and sunny days of spring and fall are the best times to visit. Winter is usually too cold for most visitors and summer temperatures can break 100 degrees. Temperatures often dip below freezing at night, so layer up and stay hydrated.

If you plan to visit Smith Rock State Park, check ahead for climbing route closures and other restrictions for raptor courting and nesting. And know that campfires are banned year-round due to the dry climate.

– This story originally appeared in the May/June 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

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