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Black Butte Hike

Central Oregon, Oregon

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Black Butte Hike

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  • The Black Butte Trailhead in winter.- Black Butte Hike
  • Mossy, old-growth ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) at the start of the hike.- Black Butte Hike
  • Mount Washington (7,795 ft) floating above an inversion. On days with low-lying clouds, the view can be surreal.- Black Butte Hike
  • The Three Sisters (10,358 ft) floating above an inversion.- Black Butte Hike
  • An icy view of the fire lookout at Black Butte's summit (6,436 ft).- Black Butte Hike
  • Ice gives the trees a cartoonish look.- Black Butte Hike
  • Mount Jefferson (10,495 ft) seen from Black Butte's north face.- Black Butte Hike
  • Black Butte's conical shadow.- Black Butte Hike
  • The frozen fire lookout tower on Black Butte.- Black Butte Hike
  • Coupola Lookout at Black Butte's summit (6,436 ft).- Black Butte Hike
  • A calm sunset hitting iced trees.- Black Butte Hike
  • A sunset view of Mount Washington from Black Butte.- Black Butte Hike
  • A sunset view of Mount Washington from Black Butte.- Black Butte Hike
  • A sunset view of Three Fingered Jack (7,844 ft) from Black Butte.- Black Butte Hike
  • - Black Butte Hike
  • Beautiful sunrise over low-lying fog from the trail on the southeast slope.- Black Butte Hike
  • Colorful sunrise over the Three Sisters and Broken Top.- Black Butte Hike
  • Mount Washington above the trail.- Black Butte Hike
  • Morning light over low-lying fog as the Three Sisters look on from the horizon.- Black Butte Hike
  • Three Fingered Jack above the Black Butte slope.- Black Butte Hike
  • Broken Top and the Three Sisters sit above the fog.- Black Butte Hike
  • Sunrise over low-lying fog from the summit of Black Butte.- Black Butte Hike
  • Morning light over the Three Sisters.- Black Butte Hike
  • The Three Sisters above the weathered trees of Black Butte.- Black Butte Hike
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Stunning panoramic views. Straightforward hike. Old-growth ponderosa forest.
Cons: 
Steep. No water. Moderate crowds. Rough gravel roads.
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Region:
Central Oregon, OR
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,600.00 ft (487.68 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
4,880.00 ft (1,487.42 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

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.

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(51 within a 30 mile radius)

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