• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    5.2 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1850 Feet

Forest
Scenic

Stand on top of a lava dome and drink in this close up view of Mount Shasta. The second-highest Cascade volcano dominates the landscape, but the Klamath Mountains to the west are beautiful in their own right, too. On a clear day, this view is worth every step to the top.

Black Butte is hard to miss from I-5 as it winds past the city of Mount Shasta. This lava dome formed roughly 9,000–10,000 years ago and isn't a cinder cone, though it does look like one. The rock that makes Black Butte was extruded instead of spewed, then broke apart as it cooled. The jumbled results of this volcanic event give the hike its character, never too terribly steep but always interesting because of the geology. At just over 5 miles roundtrip, the trail is a good length for a scenic day hike: not too long, not too short, and with enough elevation change for a good workout.

The trailhead is not the easiest to find, but Google Maps (see below) should get you there without any hiccups.

Beginning around 4,500 feet in elevation down in the conifer forests west of Mount Shasta, the trail doesn't wait long to break out into jumbled slopes of volcanic rock. The first 1.3 miles of the hike are a graceful arc to the left, gradually gaining elevation along the northern slope of Black Butte. Most of the trail is easily graded, always climbing but generally at a reasonable rate. On the west side, views of the Klamath Mountains to the west, including Mount Eddy and Castle Crags, are good, but they'll get even better higher up.

The first switchback flips the course and leads up above a small draw through large boulders. The trail gets a little less obvious through these jumbles, but it shouldn't be hard to pick out the path. Clarity returns soon enough, and after roughly 0.75 miles the trail hits the second switchback, now on the east flank with unavoidably wonderful views of Mount Shasta.

The last half mile switchbacks 5 or 6 times, increasingly closer together and steeper as the summit nears. At 6,334 feet in elevation, Black Butte's summit provides some of the best views to be had in the region. Shasta looms magnificently to the east, massive and marvelous from such a close vantage point. To the west, Mount Eddy and the rest of the Klamaths (of which it is the highest peak) fade into the horizon. Northern views stretch across the Shasta Valley towards Oregon, where Pilot Rock (47 miles away) and Mount McLoughlin (75 miles away) continue the chain of Cascade volcanos.

An old fire tower base provides a nice rest spot at the top, especially if it's windy (which it very well may be). Have a seat and enjoy the scenery.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Layers
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Hiking boots (ankle support is helpful in the jumbles)
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Chaney Swiney

26, aspiring explorer, photographer, naturalist

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