Black Butte's summit is a must see for anyone living or vacationing in Central Oregon. After just a half mile on the trail you will rise above the dense tree line and gain breathtaking views of huge volcanoes: Broken Top, The Three Sisters, Mount Washington, and Three Fingered Jack. Once at the summit, Mount Jefferson and potentially Mount Hood come into view to complete the 360-degree Cascade panorama. The hike is rewarding in all kinds of conditions: pick a day with low lying clouds and you will burst through them as you climb up, or stay for sunset and be treated to one of the finest lightshows Oregon has to offer.
Black Butte is actually an ancient composite volcano, not a cinder cone or butte. In fact, it is older than the much taller neighboring peaks just on the horizon. Geologists were able to date it using the time of the last magnetic polarity shift of the earth, approximately 780,000 years ago. When Black Butte's rocks were hot and soft just after their formation, the iron in them aligned with earth's magnetic field, which pointed south at the time. Earth's poles then switched to their current orientation, but the rocks had solidified in a south facing position! In contrast, the iron rocks on Mount Washington point north, indicating it was formed after Black Butte and after the polarity shift.
Note: Do not climb fire lookout towers or enter cabins at the summit. They are unsafe and not meant for public access.