Deschutes National Forest
Active; Currently standing
Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.
October 20, 2018
National Historic Lookout Register.
This was another early morning hike where I met up with a friend from out of town. They were driving from Coos Bay and we were planning on spending the weekend in Bend after completing this hike. We met at Black Butte Ranch which is just down the highway from the Forest Service road you need to take to get to the trailhead. We decided to take their Subaru due to the AllTrails reviews of the road. The NF-1110 to the trailhead is rough but doable. I did see a few sedans up there. You can access the trail from Camp Sherman if you don’t want to make the trek up the “treacherous” road according to an AllTrails review. I did not attempt this road with my Civic. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking.
The hike itself was just shy of 2 miles one way and gained 1,538 feet of elevation. It will definitely get your blood pumping before you reach the top. The trail is rocky and exposed which makes the sun beat down much hotter than normal. Once on top you can check out the old D-6 cupola that use to be the main lookout. You can also see the taller lookout that is actively staffed, but you are not supposed to go within a few feet of it. There are posted signs due to the popularity of this hike. However, from the ground you can still see Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Hood and beyond. From recent pictures and reviews on AllTrails, there seems to be an added platform with noted mountains and peaks. It also looks like they have made some repairs to the cupola and updated the staircase. These were not here when I visited in 2018.
Black Butte became the first lookout site in the Deschutes NF in 1910 when two tree lookouts were built. They were replaced in 1919 by a platform lookout supported by the trunks of four trees. In 1922 an Aladdin D-6 Cupola was built. The D-6 was the first standardized lookout style for the Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest. The design was meant to simplify the construction of fire lookouts, requiring just few people, minimal tools, and simple diagrams. In 1934, the CCC built a 83′ tower with a 7’x7′ L-6 cab to increase visibility from the original cupola. This structure was used as the active lookout until 1993 when it was condemned due to unsafe conditions. The cupola again served as the lookout until the current 65′ lookout with 10’x10′ cab was completed in 1996. The condemned lookout collapsed during a heavy winter storm in December 2001. You can still see the 1922 D-6 Cupola and the 1996 structure on this hike.
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