Hike Review: Black Butte

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Basic information:

  • Length: 4 miles

  • Elevation: 1,526 feet increase. 6,416 foot summit

  • Difficulty: Medium difficulty

  • Time: 2 hours 

Black Butte is perfect for anyone in the Central Oregon area who wants to go on a day hike that offers amazing views.

 Look out for ice on the trail! Photo by Iris Diez

Look out for ice on the trail! Photo by Iris Diez

Once in Sisters, the drive to the Black Butte Trailhead will take 50 minutes, tops. The majority of the trip is quick and on pavement, but the last bit is steeper, with uneven ground. At the Black Butte trailhead there is building with two campground pit toilets, and a picnic table. Additionally, there are many posters containing information about the hike, rules and other useful tidbits.

The first mile of the hike is a steady, hard-packed incline with trees and lichen surrounding the trail. You could easily run this part of the trail because it’s fairly-even, but watch out for fallen trees on the trail. As you continue on the hike, the trees gradually open up to give you 180 degree view of the mountains and landscapes in the distance. There are many great photo opportunities.

 View from the Southwest side of Black Butte. Photo by Iris Diez

View from the Southwest side of Black Butte. Photo by Iris Diez

At about half a mile from the summit, the trail gets steeper and narrower. These changes are minimal, and shouldn’t be an issue. As the difficulty increases, more of the stunning Cascade Mountain Range is revealed. Depending on what time of year one does this hike, the last quarter of a mile before the summit may be covered in snow or ice — so bring boots that can cross this terrain and use hiking poles or other gear that can be used for snow and ice. If you are able to reach the top, there are multiple lookouts that, though not meant to be climbed on, offer another panoramic photo op. At some points, you can see almost 360 degrees. Unfortunately, there is no bathroom at the summit.

No matter when you hike Black Butte, I recommend bringing a small backpack of some kind, water, snacks, a phone and a hiking pass. Most wilderness passes work for this hike. Depending on when you do the Black Butte hike, recommended clothing varies.

The Black Butte hike offers great views from start to finish. The hike isn’t too difficult, and is very manageable while offering a bit of a challenge. Also, it can be done at almost anytime of the year or day. Someone with little hike experience and gear can complete this hike with considerable ease. The only downsides to Black Butte hike include the long, bumpy drive, no bathroom at the summit, and the potential snow or ice on the trail. Overall, Black Butte hike is a varied, pleasant hike that can be completed by anyone.

Rating: 8/10

What to bring/wear:

 Cupola Lookout House at the summit of Black Butte. Photo by Alyx Kruger

Cupola Lookout House at the summit of Black Butte. Photo by Alyx Kruger

Shoes: (Winter) Waterproof boots. (Spring, Summer, Fall) Tennis shoes, hiking shoes, or sandals depending on weather.

Pants: (Winter) Warm pants, multiple layers. (Spring, Summer, Fall) Various pants depending on weather.

Shirts: (Winter) Long sleeve or t-shirt. (Spring, Summer, Fall) T-shirt or tank top.

Coats: (Winter) 1-3 insulation layers (fleece, down, wool, or synthetic), and windbreaker/raincoat. (Spring, Summer, Fall) 1 insulation layer, and windbreaker if needed. 

Head/hand wear: (Winter) Medium thickness gloves, and warm hat/beanie. (Spring, Fall) Light thickness gloves and light hat/beanie. (Summer) Sunhat. 

Other: (Winter) Warm socks. (Spring, Summer, Fall) Sunglasses.


  •  Peak Season: June - October (depending on snowfall). Any day of the week. Any time of day depending on the season
  • Bathrooms: At the trailhead, not on the summit

  • Useful apps: Strava, google maps