Hiking Black Butte

Mount Jefferson may outshine its less glamorous cousin to the south, but Black Butte is a steady friend on the skyline of the Metolius Basin. Its gently curving slope and rounded summit disguise the fact that the volcanic cinder cone rises about three thousand feet from the surrounding plane, to an altitude of 6,436 feet.

View of Black Butte with the meadow of House on Metolius as a sliver of light green in the sea of Ponderosa pine.  The North, Middle and South Sister are visible on the horizon.  Photo by Marta Van Patten.

View of Black Butte with the meadow of House on Metolius as a sliver of light green in the sea of Ponderosa pine.  The North, Middle and South Sister are visible on the horizon.  Photo by Marta Van Patten.

The twin fire towers at the peak have a panoramic view; Glenn Corbett, a Camp Sherman resident and our neighbor at House on Metolius, was the lookout for many years.

The standard hike to the summit starts at the trail head on the west shoulder of the mountain.  You do need a Northwest Forest Pass to park; you can pay the fee at the trailhead, the Camp Sherman store, or the Sisters ranger station.

From the parking lot, you will ascend roughly 1,600 feet over the course of two miles, first through ponderosa and lodgepole pine, and then in the open on the south face of the mountain.  The trail is good, if steep in sections, and will typically take about an hour to climb, and about the same coming back down—depending on your knees, of course!

A longer version of this climb follows the trail taken by the original CCC teams constructing the fire lookout in the 30s.  This trail has only recently come back in use, after being a well-hidden secret for many decades.

The longer hike to the summit is very pleasant one—the trail to the summit starts at the base and is about 10.5 miles and takes around five hours, with a thirty minute stop at the summit.

The Black Butte hiking trail is a great way to enjoy the ponderosa forests with a spectacular 360º view of Central Oregon at the summit.  This map shows the longer climb, which starts at the base of the butte.

The Black Butte hiking trail is a great way to enjoy the ponderosa forests with a spectacular 360º view of Central Oregon at the summit.  This map shows the longer climb, which starts at the base of the butte.

Regardless of how you climb the mountain, you will definitely want to bring a little water and some snacks. Walking sticks are a great idea, especially as there are a few steep sections near the summit. And keep an eye on your food; the ground squirrels on the summit are not shy!