Black Butte Hike

17 08 2016

Of the many activities to choose from in Oregon’s Metolius River area, a hike up 6,436 ft Black Butte is one I had never undertaken. Black Butte (affectionately known as “Black Butt”) is a cinder cone, formed thousands of years ago when Central Oregon was much more geologically active. When in the area whether at Santiam Summit, Three Fingered Jack, the town of Sisters, the Metolius Valley, or McKenzie Pass, you can see cone-shaped Black Butte.

I had heard the hike is hard, but the 360-degree views are unsurpassed. So on my birthday weekend, we made plans to undertake it. Bill, Tatsuro and I took the challenge. It was a perfect bluebird day. Turns out much of the hike up is very exposed, so it’s a good thing we started in the morning.

There is a way to cut off most of the way up – because a road switchbacks up to a trailhead about halfway up the mountain. We arrived at 11 a.m., and it was almost filled with cars. Slathered in sunscreen and tanked up with water, we slung backpacks and started up. Lower portions are dotted with many old-growth, wind-blown Ponderosa Pines. It was clear to me that winter winds take their toll on trees clinging to the slopes.

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We were at Three Fingered Jack yesterday! Wow.

When we first emerged from the lower forest, we were rewarded with a view west – Three Fingered Jack! Yesterday’s clouds and fresh dust of snow were gone. But this was but one of many views we were to encounter on the two-plus mile to the summit. Just glimpsing this one added much energy to the quest. The hike is steep! Not for the timid. We met a lady at the trailhead who seemed really focused and let her go on. Little did we know, was doing the trail twice that day! Olympic training?

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Summit fire tower, with hikers below.

The hike is very steep and exposed to the sun and wind. On this day, we had sun and heat. But zero wind. It could have been much more hot. Or windy. We considered ourselves fortunate! And the views? Food for the hike. To the south – a view of geologic history. Newberry Crater, McKenzie Pass, and the Three Sisters!

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North and South Sister. Middle Sister is hidden.

Such beauty is breathtaking! Thousands of feet below us lay the Metolius River Valley and Black Butte Ranch.

But there was much more climbing to go. The trail finally switchbacks its way in a circuitous route eastward and then northward before it reaches the summit. Bonus! This means more views!

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10,450 ft Mt. Jefferson, Black Butte’s northern neighbor.

We enjoyed unlimited views in all directions along this hike, none more spectacular than that of Mt. Jefferson just to the north.

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Tatsuro, myself, and Bill. To the left are the Three Sisters, and on the right, Mt Washington.

Rod Trailhead

I love trails!

A 360 degree view is the treat when you summit Black Butte. You can also see all the way to 14,410 ft. Mt Rainier and 12,280 ft Mt Adams. Wow! We met many people there with lots of stories to tell. We then wolfed down our lunches, loaded up and made the journey home.

This was a birthday hike to remember! On the way down, I encountered the woman doing laps. All she could do was grunt. Well, I Hope to do many more hikes like this one!


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