Bonney Butte is on the southeast side of Mount Hood, and it offers expansive views of the mountain, further north to Mount Adams, and south to the peaks in Central Oregon and the eastern reaches of the state. The trail to the summit leaves from just past the turn to the Bonney Meadows Campground, and the short, half-mile hike to the top follows an old gravel road. The road served what was once a lookout atop Bonney Butte, but the lookout has since been removed. Instead, Bonney Butte is now the site of a tracking and banding station for HawkWatch International, a Salt Lake City-based non-profit whose mission is to conserve the environment through education, long-term monitoring, and scientific research on raptors as indicators of ecosystem health.
Bonney Butte is one of 13 locations used by HawkWatch in the Western United States and Mexico for tracking and banding migrating raptors. It's the only site in Oregon, and it is well positioned along the Pacific Coast Flyway to monitor the raptors as they catch thermals on their migration route past Mount Hood and into Central Oregon on their way south. Monitoring atop Bonney Butte runs from the end of August until the end of October (or earlier if snowfall restricts access), and the site is open to the public. According to HawkWatch, the most commonly observed birds are turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, and golden eagles, and a relatively high number of merlins are also seen here. Groups of birders frequent Bonney Butte during the migration to assist HawkWatch with their tracking efforts, and HawkWatch makes an effort to allow visitors the opportunity to release any birds caught and banded at the site.
For anyone interested in learning more about raptors, Bonney Butte is a must-visit, and for everyone else, Bonney Butte is a great place to go for the views alone. However, the drive to Bonney Butte and Bonney Meadows Campground involves 4 miles on a rough gravel road. A vehicle with high clearance and four-wheel drive is highly recommended.