• Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    6 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    650 Feet

Bathrooms
Beach
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Groups
Lake
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildlife

Walk atop a basalt butte created during the Great Missoula Floods an eon ago. Stand at the edge of a sheer cliff and peer down into Banks Lake. All that and enough elevation gain to get your heart rate up. What's not to love?

Steamboat Rock is a 600 acre basalt butte that rises 800 feet out of Banks Lake. The butte was carved out of the surrounding rock during the Great Missoula Floods. From atop the rock, take in the 360 degree views, appreciate the immensity of the floods and what has been left behind for us to enjoy.

Steamboat Rock is conveniently located in Steamboat Rock State Park about 3 hours and 45 minutes east of Seattle, WA. The state park has restrooms, food options (in summer) and camping facilities should you choose to stay over. If you want to camp, be sure to get a reservation. Summer months are very busy. Discover Pass is required to enter the park.

There are multiple ways to access the main trail up the rock. Two trail heads are located off both camping loops. These trails converge at a small clearing. Looking at the rock, you will see an arrow spray painted on the rock face - follow that arrow. This part can be a bit tricky. You'll be walking up scree. Footing is uneven and can shift when weight is placed on the scree. Go slow and be careful.

After passing through a notch and gaining the first terrace, keep following the braided trail up the steady incline. There are occasional game trails that branch off to the right. If you want to explore the lower terraces, you can take these trails. If not, keep going up until you come to a T in the trail. At the T: You can go left or right at this point. I recommend going right. The trail to the right is easy to find and follow, it leads along the rim, takes you across the center to giant broken rocks in the middle of a grassy field, and ultimately leads you back to the T in the trail. Plus, going right will lead to the larger portion of the rock with the most to see.

Once on top, you will forget that you are on top of a giant rock in a lake: the sloping hills, swaying grasses and clumps of fragrant sage make you feel like you might be in a high desert meadow. I've seen deer track and scat up there, as well as coyote scat, so keep an eye out for 4 legged wildlife. You will certainly see ravens, falcons and other birds.

Going left at the T: the trail is harder to follow and covers less distance. You wont get the panoramic views like you would on the other half of the rock, but if you are in the mood to explore, go for it!

Note to hikers: If you have trouble with heights this might be a hard trail for you. There are no rails and the trail can take you very close to the edge at times. You can always walk off trail to feel safer, but 800 feet down is still 800 feet down.

Pack List

  • Discover Pass or cash for your state park entry fee
  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • 10 Essentials
  • Camera
  • Polarizer
  • ND Filters
  • Tripod
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

Steamboat rock is well worth the trip. Hiking the 3 mile butte well uncover the mule deer herd that roams the plateau along with the coyotes that share the plateau. In the spring the plateau blooms with the wild flowers that brings an abundance of color. Not far from Steamboat are the Lenore caves and the dry falls, which were the largest falls in the world when the Missoula flood occurred. This is an excellent hike for scouts.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Kim Morris

A photog with a must-see list that doesn't end. A perpetual road tripper. My batteries are charged, SD cards are cleared, and I am ready for the next adventure.

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

6 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

7 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves