Bessie Butte is a 450 foot tall cinder cone which stems from the Newbery Volcano complex. This miniature volcano is only 12 miles southeast of Bend and makes for a great quick climb if you are looking for some views and to feel a little quad burning. The 18 Road fire in 2003 and a second fire in 2007 have burned almost all the trees off of Bessie Butte, so don’t expect to find any shade. This does have the consequence of opening up some amazing views though, making this an excellent sunrise or sunset hike.
The Bessie Butte trailhead is wide spot along the 1810 road, just a quarter mile off of China Hat Road. The trailhead is located right at the bottom of the butte in a sea of manzanita and bitterbrush. Start heading towards the butte and begin climbing almost immediately. The trail isn’t too steep, but it does climb pretty steadily all the way to the summit. But, its also not too long, so it will only take you ¾ of a mile to reach it. It’s also cool watching the views evolve as you wind your way around this conical hill.
The summit of Bessie Butte is broad and flat. There are a couple nice benches to relax on and enjoy the view, and those views do extend in all directions. The Cascades open up to you to the west, Newberry Volcanic Monument and its sea of cinder cones can be found to the south. Look out over Bend and off to Smith Rock to the north and the expanses of the Central Oregon high desert are to your east. You can mosey around the summit to get the best views in each direction if you wish.
To reach the Bessie Butte Trailhead, head towards the south end of Bend on Highway 97 and exit at Knott Road. Head east for 1.5 miles and then make a right onto China Hat Road. Follow China Hat for another 4.5 miles, then make a right onto Forest Road 1810 at a sign directing you to Swamp Well Horse Camp. It’s just a quarter mile from here to the trailhead.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: The area is likely accessible year round, depending on the plowing that is occurring on China Hat Road. You may have to start your hike at the junction of the 1810 road in the winter. There is also no shade on this hike so it can get pretty hot during the summer.