Black Butte is a very symmetrical stratovolcano that is easily identifiable throughout much of Central Oregon as it rises over 3,000 feet above the surrounding terrain. The mountain’s nice, uniform shape may lead you to believe that it has recently formed, but Black Butte is actually much older than its neighboring Cascade peaks, such as Mt Washington. However, because of its location east of the High Cascades and lower elevation, Black Butte never received enough precipitation to form glaciers, which are responsibly the majority of the erosion observed in the adjacent mountains. When the mountain was formed, it also buried the Metolius River, which now emerges from its base as a fully formed river.
The hike begins from the Black Butte Trailhead as a nice single track trail through some old-growth ponderosa pine and firs. The trail climbs steadily but evenly throughout most of the hike. The trail performs it single switchback about ¾ of a mile into the hike. From this point on, you will simply encircle the mountain as you climb.
At about a mile, you will begin to emerge from the forest and the views will open up before you. Mt Washington and the Three Sisters spread out before you as you continue trugging upwards through a sea of brush. At around 1 ¾ miles, you will round the southeastern flank on the mountain and make the final push up to summit.
The views from the summit of Black Butte are some of the most spectacular in Central Oregon. A fire lookout and old grounding shack are located at the summit, but both are closed to the public. Once you reach the top, make sure you walk the last little bit to the northern point of the summit. From here, the views extend from Three Fingered Jack all the way to Mt Adams on a clear day.
Take Highway 20 six miles northwest from Sisters and turn right onto Forest Road 11 with signs for Indian Ford and Green Ridge. Continue on this road for 3.8 miles and then make a left onto Forest Road 1110. Stay on this road for 5.1 miles as it circles and climbs the butte until you reach the trailhead.
Passes: Northwest Forest Pass is required at this trailhead.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Open Season: Trailhead is usually accessable begining in Mid-April