Horsethief Butte Hike, Columbia Hills State Park, Washington

     It was our last day in Hood River, so after breakfast we spent the morning checking out a couple stores in town before heading out. I found a really cool guide book called “Curious Gorge.” I had planned for us to hike Horsethief Butte to break up the drive home, and after thumbing through my new book discovered a couple more things in the area worth checking out.

     Our first stop was to see the pictographs just west of the butte along the Columbia River and Horsethief Lake. I have always been interested in native American culture and will always take advantage of any chance to see a pictographs, and i have never seen such a display like the one in the Columbia hills. It was amazing that the pictures had stood the test of time and that there were so many on display in one area, we are very fortunate to have such an artifact in our backyard,  a must see for anyone traveling through the area.

     Back on the road we continued east about a quarter mile to the trailhead for Horsethief Butte. Horsethief Butte is a prominent landmark anchored on the north bank of the Columbia River and has a rich history as a site used for native american rituals and was even visited by Lewis and Clark on their quest to the pacific. After loading provisions we grabbed the kids and hit the trail.

     The weather was perfect, not too hot, very comfortable for hiking. Unfortunately, we did have just enough high clouds to obstruct any views of the surrounding volcanoes.  Horsethief Butte is an impressive formation of rock, standing like an impenetrable castle of basalt overlooking the mighty Columbia River. We started hiking in a counter clockwise direction around the butte along the well signed and traveled path. We rather quickly encountered a few annoying bugs that liked to swarm around the top of your head which was enough for Kylie to bail on the trip, so Robin took one for the team and retreated to the confines of the air conditioned car at the trailhead to wait for us.

     Jameson and I continued on with hike working our way along the trail below the butte passing arrowleaf balsamroot in full bloom. We made our way around the west side of the butte and were treated to a spectacular reflection of the rolling grasslands along the glass shores of Horsethief Lake and the Columbia River. Jameson and paused for a second to take in the view before continuing  around to the south end of the butte. The trail approached a keyhole in a shattered rocky shoulder of the butte that we climbed to over broken basalt to an impressive view of the west side of the butte and the Columbia River. The trail continued down a steep hill into the valley below but we decided to turn back and head the way we came. I was eager to explore the summit of the butte so we retreated back to a trail junction leading into the belly of the beast.

     The heart of the butte had a magical feel to it, there was definitely a presence, maybe due to its spiritual history for the Native Americans who lived here. We made our way up the trail over broken basalt and past lots of blooming balsamroot. After a short scramble we eventually topped out at the summit and enjoyed the splendid view as we paused for a short break. The view of the Columbia River, Horsethief Lake, and Columbia Hills was stunning. Reluctantly, we couldn’t stay long and made quick work of the trail back to the cool car where we found mamma and Kylie waiting for us. Horsethief Butte is well worth checking out if you find yourself on the Washington side in the Columbia River Gorge. We hiked about 1.5 miles and 200 feet of elevation gain. Also, the pictographs at Columbia Hills are spectacular, definitely worth the stop even if you don’t have time to hike the butte. For more pictures click the link.

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