650 feet elevation gain
I grew up hearing stories about Kamiak Butte. With an elevation of 3641 feet, it’s a forested island that towers above the rolling hills of wheat, alfalfa and barley so typical of the Palouse region. My parents are originally from the town of Palouse and have fond memories of hiking Kamiak Butte years ago. It’s one of the few options for hiking available in a region primarily dominated by rolling agricultural fields.
Daniel and I arrived at Kamiak Butte Park on Memorial Day weekend and were lucky enough to snag the last camping spot. Designated as a U.S. National Natural landmark, the park boasts five miles of hiking trails along with eight camp spots and a pleasant day use area. We set up our tent and watched the sunset over the rolling Palouse fields through towering Douglas Fir trees.
We awoke bright and early the next morning ready to hike the Butte. The Pine Ridge Trail is a 3.5-mile loop that gently climbs to the top of Kamiak Butte and follows the ridge along the top before looping back to the trailhead via a series of switchbacks. It’s a pleasant ascent under a canopy of Douglas Firs and Ponderosa Pines. I inhaled deeply as we hiked, taking in the fragrance of the dry forest – such a different kind of forest than I’m used to in Western Washington.
At the top of the ridge, we took the optional spur trail to the summit where we were treated to magnificent views of the Palouse region below. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of wildflowers still blooming and stopped to take several pictures. I wandered around the summit for a while before I even noticed a picnic table nestled under some trees – it’s a great spot for a lunch break.
We headed back to the main trail and were treated to more sweeping views of the Palouse as we followed the ridge for another mile or so. By this time it was late morning and the trail was increasingly crowded with families clambering up the butte. The day was heating up and I was glad we started our hike early.
The Pine Ridge Trail returns to the parking lot via a series of switchbacks through the forest. The descent is considerably steeper than the ascent, but the path is wide and easy to follow. The trees shaded us from the sun as we strolled back to our campsite.
It’s easy to see why this hike is so popular. The short distance and moderate elevation gain make this hike accessible to hikers of most ability levels and the views at the top are spectacular. I’m glad I got a chance to experience it.