Black Butte

Shastina and Mt. Shasta from Black Butte's summit

  • Difficult
  • 5.2 miles round-trip
  • 1858 feet elevation gain
  • Open late May to mid-November

Wedged beside Interstate 5, this strange, steep-sided volcano boasts a close-up view of Mt. Shasta and a wide-angle panorama that stretches from the Sacramento Valley to Oregon. The convenient, well-graded trail to Black Butte’s summit is perfect for a few hours of earnest exercise. Just don’t forget your hat and water bottle in hot weather, because the route has no shade.

Black Butte looks like a cinder cone, but it was formed by a very different kind of eruption. When magma rose toward the surface here 10,000 years ago the rock didn’t spray out as cinders. Instead it blasted a crater and then oozed up through the hole like dough from a cookie press, creating four adjacent lava domes. As the domes cooled the outer rock shattered into boulders, surrounding the central plug with a conical skirt of rockslides. About the same time, a similar lava dome erupted 7 miles away, much higher on Shasta’s slopes. That dome is now Shastina.

To find the trailhead from …

… The firs and pines here are struggling to grow amidst a jumble of gray and red andesite boulders. Black Butte’s lava is rich in hornblende. If you look closely you’ll see this black mineral has formed crystals resembling fossilized fir needles in the rock. At times, yellow and black lichens seem to be the only life to have gained a foothold on this relatively fresh lava. Elsewhere the trail passes surprisingly lush patches of gooseberry bushes, orange paintbrush, red fireweed, lavender pennyroyal, and yellow rabbitbrush. Viewpoints are everywhere. …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon.