Clear Lake Butte is a challenging and satisfying out-and-back option within the Skyline-Timothy Lake trail network. This system is groomed for snowmobile use, which can be heavy on weekends. The trails are all on roadways, so they are wide enough to accommodate traffic. Clear Lake Lookout Tower is available for rent through the forest service, and it is accessible to day-trippers as well. From the lookout tower you will have fabulous views of Mount Hood to the north and Mount Jefferson to the south. It is worth trying to make this trip on a clear day in order to enjoy these views.
The trail starts at the northwest corner of Skyline Sno-Park. The route follows Forest Road 42 or Skyline Road toward the Clear Creek drainage. Soon after crossing Clear Creek, ignore the trail to the right and continue on Forest Road 42. Next find Forest Road 240 or Clear Lake Butte Road; it's on the right and well signed. Begin climbing steadily, and be aware that there are a few steep sections that can be challenging on skis. At the summit, a side trail leads up the final, short climb to the lookout tower. If the tower is occupied, please be respectful of the occupants. The route back down has some steep sections that beginners should consider walking, but otherwise it provides a fun, quick descent on skis.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.