Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 47.03234°N / 117.29678°W
Additional Information County: Whitman
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 3612 ft / 1101 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Steptoe Butte ViewView from top

Steptoe QuartziteQuartzite along roadside

Steptoe Butte is the archetype of a geologic formation for which it is one. A Steptoe is defined as an isolated protrusion of bedrock (island) immersed in a lava flow. The butte is made up of over 400 million year old quartzite which was initially deposited as seafloor sediment. It was later forced upward. The peak has been worn down from its original form and the Columbia flood basalts, deposited 15-17 million years ago, have diminished its grandeur. Multiple summits of similar formation exist in the area including Kamiak Butte.

Today the Butte is located in its namesake Steptoe Butte State Park which is open from 6 am to 6 pm daily. The summit is at 3,612 feet (1,100 meters) but don't be expecting any kind of hike. There is a road that makes two and a half revolutions around the nearly perfect cone-shaped butte and ends at a parking lot which can accommodate about 20 cars. From the summit, radio towers and a full 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape are enjoyed. On a clear day the views may stretch as far as 70 miles (112 km)

History and Naming

Steptoe Butte was originally known by Native Americans as "the power mountain." It was believed that a trip to the butte rewarded the traveler with a gift of power from the mountains guardian spirit. The mountain became a defining battlefield in the 19th century Indian wars however. In 1858 American Soldiers under Lt. Col. Edward J Steptoe found themselves in a fight with a large band of Palouse, Spokane, and Coeur D’Alene Indians. The Soldiers were defeated and retreated to Fort Walla Walla but in the next year a full scale campaign was led against these Native Groups.

The first official name for the butte was Pyramid Peak but it was renamed “Steptoe” for the commander of the aforementioned battle. In the 1880’s a Resort with a powerful telescope was constructed on the summit but has since been lost to fire.

Getting There

Steptoe MapTopographic map of approach
From Colfax take SR-195 north until you see signs for Steptoe Butte State Park (Large Brown Signs) and follow them down Old State Highway also named Scholz Rd after 1.1 miles turn right on Hume Rd in 4 miles take a very obvious left toward the butte (again signed).

Red Tape

None, their are no day use fees and a NW Forest Service Pass is not required


No camping is allowed in the park

External Links