Columbia Hills Historical State Park
Columbia Hills Historical State Park puts the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area at your fingertips.
Rock climbing, swimming and spring hikes through vast fields of balsamroot flowers make for an action-packed stay, not to mention the nearby attractions of Goldendale Observatory and Maryhill Museum.
Columbia Hills is home to Horsethief Butte, a favorite among climbers of all abilities. Horsethief Lake caters to water-lovers, with a watercraft launch and pedal boat and stand up paddleboard rentals. To the north of Highway 14, the Dalles Mountain Ranch Area, a historic homestead ranch, features miles of multi-use trails that crisscross the Columbia Hills with astounding views of Mount Adams and Mount Hood.
A group of significant Native American pictographs and petroglyphs is open for viewing on regularly scheduled guided ranger tours. Among these features is the world-famous Tsagaglalal, (She Who Watches).
There are opportunities to relax at Columbia Hills, but with so much to see and do in the park and the Gorge, you may not sit still on this visit.
Columbia Hills Historical State Park is a 3,637-acre camping park with shoreline on the Columbia River. Horsethief Butte dominates the skyline like an ancient castle. Horsethief Lake is about 90 acres in size, an impoundment of the Columbia River. The lake was flooded into existence by the reservoir created by The Dalles Dam.
Discover Pass: A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to state parks for day use. For more information about the Discover Pass and exemptions, please visit the Discover Pass web page.
Automated pay station: This park is equipped with an automated pay station for visitors to purchase a one-day or annual Discover Pass and boat launch permit.
- Hiking trail
Use our interactive ADA recreation map to search for other state parks with ADA amenities and facilities.
Picnic & day-use facilities
There are 35 unsheltered picnic tables located around the day-use area. Nine braziers are available. Facilities are first come, first served.
- 12.4 miles of hiking trails
Water activities & features
- Boat ramps (2)
- Fishing (freshwater)
Other activities & features
- Bird watching
- Horseshoe pit
- Rock climbing
- Wildlife viewing
Horsethief Lake section of the Columbia Hills Historical State Park is a National Historic Site. Guided tours of the pictographs and petroglyphs 9 a.m. on Fridays - Saturdays, April through October. Reservations are required. To make a reservation, call the park office at (509) 439-9032. Please leave a detailed message with your party size, the dates you have in mind, your name and phone number. If a ranger does not return your call, call the office again. Do not come for a tour without verbally confirming with a ranger that your reservation has been made. It is advisable to reserve at least two or three weeks in advance, as tours are limited to 25 people and fill up fast. For directions and additional information on the pictographs tour, visit the FAQ page.
- Archaeological sites and artifacts are protected by both federal and state laws, and their disturbance and/or removal is illegal and carries severe penalties.
- A recreational license is required for fishing and shellfish harvesting at Washington state parks. For regulations, fishing season information, or to purchase a recreational license, visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
- Be aware that park conditions are often extremely windy.
- Horsethief Butte is a very popular rock-climbing location. Two areas are signed no climbing for cultural resource protection. Climbers are directed to limit their use of chalk when climbing at the butte.
- Large shady, grassy lawns are suitable for croquet, soccer, etc. Visitors must bring their own equipment. No horseshoes are provided for the horseshoe pits.
- Newly opened Crawford Oaks Trailhead.
- Some rattlesnakes live in the area, but they are fairly rare. The bullsnake is more common. Its color and markings are similar to a rattlesnake's, but they don't have rattles and they are not venomous.
- Spring is tick season. Ticks vary in color from brown to green. Be sure to check for ticks when hiking the guided tour or visiting undeveloped areas.
- The lake is usually open for fishing the last Saturday in April through Oct. 31. Fishermen should consult regulations to be sure of the dates.
- Watch out for poison oak in the rock climbing areas of the butte. They appear as woody shrubs along the base of some rock walls. When foliated they have glossy leaves in groups of three and little round white berries.
- The trail and tour are closed to pets to protect park resources.
- Printable park brochure (PDF).
Located in Klickitat County on Horsethief Lake, Columbia Hills has two boat ramps and offers paddle boat rentals. Motorized boats are permitted on the lake, but the county has posted a speed limit of 5 mph for the entire lake. Launching a boat at a state park requires one of the following:
- An annual launch permit (Natural Investment Permit; or
- An annual Discover Pass and a daily launch permit; or
- A one-day Discover Pass and a daily launch permit. A daily permit is available for watercraft launching and trailer dumping at the park. Annual permits also may be purchased at State Parks Headquarters in Olympia, at region offices, online and at parks when staff is available. Additional information can be found in the Boating Program.
Latitude: 45º 38' 36.6" N (45.6435)
Longitude: 121º 6' 12.24" W (-121.1034)
The park has four standard campsites, eight partial-hookup sites, four standard "walk-in" sites, two platform tent sites, one dump station and one restroom. Maximum site length is 60 feet (limited availability). In addition, there are two primitive hiker / bicycle sites. Be aware that it can be very windy in the Columbia River Gorge, and be prepared for such conditions.
Check-in time is 2:30 p.m.
Check-out time is 1 p.m.
Reservations & fees
Columbia Hills Historical State Park is layered in natural and cultural history. The end of the last Ice Age saw catastrophic floods sweep through the region, carving and scouring features that still can be seen in the basalt formations and walls of the Columbia River Gorge. Prolific salmon runs provided sustenance for the Native American tribes who lived along the shores of the Columbia and for others who traveled hundreds of miles each season, passing through Columbia Hills on their way to fish at Celilo Falls. In October 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped by Horsethief Lake on their way to the Pacific Ocean. In the mid-1800s, Euro-American settlers began establishing homesteads in the hills above the river. Their land claims were eventually combined into the Dalles Mountain Ranch, which became a state park in 1993.