Barefoot Hiking in Deschutes National Forest: Black Butte

Mount Jefferson with fire from Black Butte
Something that I haven't mentioned in any of my previous hiking posts is that I hike in Vibram Fivefingers. Whether it's a short day hike or a multiple day backpacking trip Fivefingers are my go to shoes. Depending on how rocky or hot the trail is I will often not wear shoes at all. On my drive to Black Butte I decided that this was going to be my first completely barefoot hike since I left Hawai'i in 2010.

The start of the climb up Black Butte

Massive Ponderosa Pine along the Black Butte trail

One benefit of barefoot hiking that I have noticed is seeing a lot more big game. Even on this heavily used trail I saw a few deer before they ran into the brush. Other hikes have had similar results. Black Butte is a landmark that I have passed many times on trips through the Cascades and until recently I had never thought to hike it. I had limited time and was craving some epic views and Ponderosa Pine forests, so Black Butte sounded like the perfect hike.

View of the Cascades through the Pines

Three Finger Jack from the Black Butte trail

Shortly after you begin the climb you will switchback out of the relatively cool Pine forest and into an open hillside. The dirt went from being somewhat cool to being downright hot in some places as I climbed into this section. Thankfully not long after you come into the open you circle around the northeast side and summit Black Butte.

The last stretch before the summit

Fairly new Forest Service marker and lookout
Black Butte is still an active fire lookout so you're not allowed to be near the tower or next to a newer cabin that is build on the northwest side of the Butte. Though you can explore near the Cupola Cabin that was the original fire lookout built in 1922, it is one of the only cabins like this left in the US.

Current residence for employees

Cupola Cabin  near the summit of Black Butte
Because of Black Butte's over 3,000 foot prominence you have incredible views in all directions.

Mount Jefferson

View towards the Sisters

Hiking Black Butte barefoot turned out to be a good idea, though if I would have gotten a later start or hiked on a warmer day it would have been painful in the stretches with little forest cover. Overall the hike is a great short trip, if you want to avoid the heat and the crowds go early in the day. Or if you're more adventurous go as soon as you can get to get trailhead.

Directions from Sisters: Drive 6.3 miles west Highway 20, turn right on FR 11 then follow for 3.9 miles, then turn left onto FR 1110 follow for 5.5 miles(dirt) until road end at parking area. The last section of road was very rough

Hike Distance:Approximately 4 miles round trip

Hike Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 1,640 feet

Highest Point: 6,440

Usage: Heavy

Difficulty: 3 out of 5

Fees: 5 dollars or a Northwest Forest Pass


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