We drove up to Bend, Oregon last week to visit family and spend a few days skiing. Not much snow in California this winter, so Mount Bachelor was worth the long trek! On our drive up, we passed under the shadow of Black Butte – a prominent peak right next to I-5 in the Mount Shasta area. It looks relatively small next to Mount Shasta, but it is actually 6334-ft and looms steeply above the freeway. As we drove toward it, we both exclaimed: “What is that peak? Can we climb it?!” Turns out, there’s an easy trail that goes to the top.
Basics: The trail up Black Butte is 5.2-ish miles (roundtrip) with an elevation gain of about 2000 feet. It’s rocky, but nicely graded. I only rolled my ankle once! From the top, you’ll have incredible views: Mount Shasta to east, Castle Crags to the south and Mount Eddy to the west. We could also see a snowy Cascade up in Oregon – I believe it was Mount Mount McLoughlin, 70 miles to the north. Access to the trailhead is along a gravel road. It may be snowbound in the winter. This was not an issue for us (unfortunately) thanks to the drought this year.
Directions to Trailhead: If you’re coming from the North, do not follow Google Maps directions. We ended up on a dirt road at a gate with a “No Trespassing” sign. Rob of course was ready to drive through (the gate was unlocked), but I didn’t want risk it. We backtracked and went around using the directions on the Mount Shasta Trail Association Website. For your convenience, I have retraced those steps in Google Maps.
Take the Central Mount Shasta exit off I-5. Head east on Lake Street. This turns north and becomes Everitt Memorial Highway. Turn left (1.5 miles after crossing the railroad tracks) onto Black Butte Trail – a gravel road. If you simply follow the well-traveled roads, you will end up in the right place, but in case you’re unsure, follow the directions. Continue on the dirt road for 0.1 mile and then turn right (north). Drive 1 mile north then turn 90 degrees left towards Black Butte (west). Drive another 0.3 miles then turn right (north). After 1.2 miles, pass under some power lines and turn left (west). The trailhead is 0.7 miles further. Parking was a little tight, but we were there on a Saturday.
Trail Description: After a few days of skiing and hiking, we left Bend, OR around 8:00 am on Saturday morning. We made it to Weed, CA before noon. We stopped for lunch at what appeared to be the only grocery store in town. We didn’t want fast food and Weed is not exactly a hub of fine dining in California. After lunch, we made our way to the trailhead and snagged one of the few parking spots just as somebody was leaving.
We headed up the trail at a steady pace. It’s nicely graded. At first, the trail is half dirt and half rocky sections. Eventually, the path climbs above the trees and the you begin hiking up a big pile of rocks. We could see and hear the freeway below us.
Black Butte is a cluster of dacite lava domes and is a satellite cone of Mount Shasta. The cone was extruded after the last major period of eruptions, 9,000 to 10,000 years ago.
We climbed and climbed and after about an hour we reached the summit! Beautiful views on a gorgeous sunny day.
There is a stone foundation for an old fire lookout at the top. The lookout was originally built in the 1930’s, destroyed in the infamous Columbus Day Storm of 1962, rebuilt in 1963, and used until 1975. The building was removed but the foundation remains.
We sat, took some photos, enjoyed the views, then headed back the way we had come. Total hike time was just under 2 hours. It was definitely a great way to break up the long drive back from Bend.
More Info: The Shasta-Trinity National Forest has a page with directions and information about his hike.