Columbia Hills State Historical Park includes Horsethief Butte, a prominent landmark along the Columbia River and a favorite among rock climbers of all abilities. This trailhead offers a short hike to sweeping views of the Columbia River and Mount Hood on the plateau around the base. Rock climbers are attracted to the sheer cliff faces of the butte but hikers and scramblers will find a marked route to the summit.
Wildlflowers bloom around the base of Horsethief Butte in the spring, including grass widows, death camas and the pungent smell of Klickitat desert parsley. Swallows dart overhead, while larger birds of prey -- like eagles and falcons -- soar on air currents high above your head for wildlife viewing. Turkey vultures float on the thermals rising from the sun-heated rocks. Listen for the songs of canyon wrens and rock wrens from the cliffs.
Beware of poison oak and rattlesnakes, and the basalt cliffs can become blazing hot under the summer sun, so spring is the best time to visit.
The short hike is a great option for families looking for a way to spend a summer afternoon, a nice leg stretch on a long road trip, or a way to further explore all the Columbia River Gorge has to offer.
Although older hiking guides in print and online may provide directions to hike all the way around the base of Horsethief Butte, State Parks has closed those route with fences and signs.