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Painted Rocks - Knothead Trail Loop

  4.5 ( 16 ) Favorite


6.6 mile 10.7 kilometer loop


Ascent: 874' 266 m
Descent: -922' -281 m
High: 2,449' 747 m
Low: 1,555' 474 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 21% (12°)


No Dogs
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Trail shared by Karen Jurasin

This hike goes along the river, climbs up to a high viewpoint and dips down through a deep valley.

Karen Jurasin

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife

Family Friendly The trail along the marsh area on the Indian Painted Rocks portion of the trail is a fun trail for kids. Not much elevation but enough "wildness" for a kid's adventure.


This is a very popular hike. The hike takes you through the marsh environment, then to a higher elevation with more rock, and through a valley. There is a Blue Heron rookery and deer are often frequently sighted. No bikes, dogs or motorized vehicles allowed in this area. This is also a very popular paddle route and there is a "put in" for canoes at this trailhead too.

Need to Know

The viewpoints and trail can be icy in winter, so be careful of footing.


This loop is usually started from the Painted Rocks Parking Lot (Little Spokane Natural Area). If you travel in a clockwise direction (steepest direction) it follows the Little Spokane River (watch for birds and moose) and then comes to a paved road. Crossing the road you'll start the uphill climb partly on the Knothead Trail which is partly on singletrack and partly on old road.

Cross the paved road again and soon you'll come to 2 signs that say 'Leaving the Natural Area." This is the old route but it goes on private land so be sure to follow the new re-route. The wonderful re-route (take the trail to the right at this junction) sponsored by REI and built by volunteers with Washington Trails Association switchbacks up the hillside allowing some views of nearby mountains and the Spokane River in the distance.

There is a short spur trail to the right part way up that leads to some awesome viewpoints but adds a little over a mile to the total distance. It is an out and back trail at this point in time but in the future will be a secondary loop option.

Continuing to climb on an old road you'll soon come to a bench. To the left is a little trail to a viewpoint overlooking Lake Spokane in the distance. The loop then descends into a deep forested valley and then returns to the trailhead.

Note: If you are looking for a shorter options, the Indian Painted Rocks trail as an out and back is a perfect easy option for families.

Flora & Fauna

Wildflowers in the spring.

History & Background

This property is part State Park and part Conservation Futures Property (Van Horn, Edburg and Bass Conservation Area) but is managed by Riverside State Park.

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Sep 7, 2019
Jennifer Heinecke
The ascent is tough, but once you get past that, the rest of the trail is pretty easy. Lots of wildlife and beautiful views! 6.6mi — 3h 11m
Sep 1, 2019
Jessie Salazar
Aug 18, 2019
Frank Laird
Aug 16, 2019
Frank Laird
Aug 6, 2019
Frank Laird
Jul 7, 2019
Nicholas Goss
after same rain during the week all of the plants along the laat 3 miles have sprung up and at times encroached on the trail but it wasn't to bad.… 6.5mi — 5h 00m
Jun 30, 2019
Nicholas Goss
nice hike. the detour near the top of the map is actually a trail redirect. the app says the trail is 6.6. decent amount of up hill. the parking lo… 7mi
May 4, 2019
Allen Svirgun
6.6mi — 7h 17m

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Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 16 votes


  4.5 from 16 votes
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in Washington


227 Views Last Month
10,176 Since Nov 17, 2015



The highest viewpoint is a great place for a lunch stop.
Nov 16, 2015 near Fairwood, WA
This area is also great for winter travel!
Nov 16, 2015 near Fairwood, WA
Volunteers working on the tread for the new section of trail in 2014.
Nov 16, 2015 near Fairwood, WA
Absolutely love the way the WTA volunteers created stairs with some pretty neat rocks!
Nov 16, 2015 near Fairwood, WA
There were 3 deer on the trail back - not minding us a bit.
Nov 16, 2015 near Fairwood, WA
The switchbacks make it easier to ascend this steep hillside.
Nov 16, 2015 near Fairwood, WA


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