Trail Run Project Logo

Painted Rocks - Knothead Trail Loop



6.6 mile 10.7 kilometer loop
92% Runnable


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
Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Karen Jurasin

This run 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


This is a very popular run. The run 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.

Runner Notes

Pretty good singletrack, but watch for rocks in the trail.


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.

Run this trail?

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow runners know what's here.


Rate This Run

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Run

Check In


Jun 29, 2019
Fumiko S-R
Sep 9, 2018
Summer Enser
Aug 5, 2018
Kris Braun
Sep 4, 2017
Isabelle Belzil

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 16 votes


  4.5 from 16 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Run Rankings


in Washington


94 Views Last Month
10,579 Since Nov 17, 2015



The highest viewpoint is a great place for a lunch stop.
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
We used to continue on this old road but this goes on to private property so a trail was built to bypass the road and go toward the river.  When you see these signs look for a trail to the right. It is not signed and if you are not looking for the turn you might miss it.
Nov 16, 2015 near Fairwood, WA


Trail Run Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Running