Rising 500 feet above the Columbia River, Horsethief Butte is a 1,100 by 600 foot basalt fortress within Columbia Hills Historical State Park, and this short hike provides an excellent tour of this interesting formation. Renowned for its countless beginner-friendly rock climbing routes, the crag also hosts Native American petroglyphs and picturesque yellow grasslands that turn purple and yellow every April with the blossoming of lupine, cushion fleabane, and balsamroot.
From the trailhead off of Washington Highway 14, a network of trails weave around and through the basalt outcropping. Here you'll be able to explore Wanapum basalt that was formed an estimated 15 million years ago and scoured clean by the relentless pounding of the Missoula Floods.
As a climbing spot, Horsethief Butte is well-known for being a sunny oasis when compared to more western crags. There are a variety of bouldering and top-rope routes that are ideal for beginning climbers, with the majority of routes measuring only 20 to 45 feet in height. Bolts are not permitted, so if you are climbing be sure to bring a full trad rack and slings for top-rope anchors. A huge sling or static rope is also recommended for anchors, as the rock quality for anchor building is poor at best.
Note: Rattlesnakes and poison oak are common in Columbia Hills Historical State Park and around Horsethief Butte, so use caution.