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 yellow arrowleaf 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 boat launch and pedal boat 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 3,338-acre camping park with 7,500-feet of freshwater 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.
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
Two boat ramps
Other Activities & Features
Horsethief Lake section of the Columbia Hills Historical State Park is a National Historic Site. Guided tours of the pictographs and petroglyphs 10 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, and 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 additional information on the pictographs tour, visit the FAQ page.
Archeological 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.
Newley 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 October 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.
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 m.p.h. for the entire lake. A daily permit is available for watercraft launching and trailer dumping at the park for $5. 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.
Boat Launch Latitude: 45º 38' 36.6" N (45.6435) Longitude: 121º 6' 12.24" W (-121.1034)
The park has eight partial utility sites, four standard "walk-in" sites, a tee-pee, 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 camp sites. Be aware that it can be very windy in the Columbia River Gorge, and be prepared for such conditions.
Reservations & Fees
Reservations can be made online or by calling 888-CAMPOUT (888-226-7688). For fee information, check out our camping rates page.
For centuries, the park was the site of a Native American village. The Lewis and Clark expedition camped at the village and described its wooden houses in one of their journals. The village was flooded by the waters of The Dalles Dam.
Oral history states that the park received its former name, Horsethief Lake State Park, from workers in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who developed the site. The workers thought the terrain was similar to that of horsethief hideouts in popular 1950s Hollywood westerns. The abundance of horses kept on the premises by local Indians apparently gave the workers their inspiration.
The commission combined the park with Dalles Mountain Ranch and renamed the area Columbia Hills State Park in 2003. The park was renamed again in 2013 to Columbia Hills Historical State Park.