Hike to Black Butte
Oregon › Black Butte Trail
Added by Jeffrey Green
Stunning ViewsGreat Hiking ExerciseGorgeous Photography4 mile out-and-back hikeElevation Gain: 1,555 feetSummit Elevation: 6,436 feetSummit GPS Grid Coordinates 44°23′59″N 121°38′08″W
Just outside of Sisters Oregon is the stunning and popular day hike to the summit Black Butte (Elevation 6,436 feet). At the top, spectacular views of the surrounding Cascades await the intrepid hiker.
To get to the trailhead, turn off of Highway 22 onto National Forest Road (NFR) 11, also known as Green Ridge Road. NFR 11 is 5.5 miles west of Sisters and 2.5 miles east of Black Butte Ranch. Follow NFR 11 north for about 4 miles and then turn left onto Forest Road (FR) 1110, which is a gravel road. Go about 5 miles to a graved parking area at the end of the road. This is the location of the marked Black Butte Trailhead. This is a day use area that requires a $5 paid fee at the trailhead or a displayed Northwest Forest Pass in your vehicle.
The 2 mile hike to the summit of Black Butte is on a well traveled hiking trail. The grade of the trail is not too steep and surprisingly the number of switchbacks is low. Early on you’ll be hiking through a forested area dominated by ponderosa pine. As you get closer to the summit, the forest disperses and alpine vegetation takes over. Wildflowers can be abundant in the right season.
Once at the top, there are a number of interesting structures to check out. In the center is a 62 foot tall fire lookout tower. To the west is two separate fire lookout cabins. The first one is an old D-6 Cupola that was built in 1923 and is currently boarded up. The second cabin was built in 1980 is still used during the fire season. All structures are off limits to visitors, but are gorgeous to check out and photograph.
Volcanoes that can be seen from the summit include Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, North Sister, Middle Sister, South Sister, Broken Top, Mount Jefferson, and Mt. Hood on a very clear day! Additionally, you can catch a glimpse of the stunning Metolius River, which springs to life at the northeastern base of Black Butte.
Be advised that there is no camping allowed on the hiking trail. However, backpack style camping is allowed at the summit. Please don’t interfere with fire lookout operations and pack out all trash. Additionally, lingering snow near the summit may be present until mid-late May.
Overall, I would highly recommend Black Butte as a wonderful day hike. You won’t be disappointed as the spectacular views are well worth the effort. While this hike is categorized as intermediate, kids with hiking experience could make the trip. As always, pack standard hiking essentials and drink plenty of water. Supplies, food, and drinks are available in the nearby town of Sisters, OR a few miles to the east.
- Hiking Boots
- Day Pack
- High Calorie Snacks
- Hiking Stick
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New trail open now
This hike really does start halfway up the mountain, which is why it's so great for young kids and less-than-fit folks. For a bigger challenge, you can start at the base of the mountain in Camp Sherman and hike all its glorious 3200 feet! And double the mileage, too.
Black Butte Epicness!
I don't know if there is a better view in Central Oregon. We drove up the road to the parking lot on the back which feels like you are driving to the top! Conveniently the hike from that parking lot is still a good ways and you feel like you've conquered! Add a little Deschutes Black butte porter in the backpack for the full "black butte" experience and cool structures up top. Go for it!
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