Oregon Butte


Forest Service Trail #3113

Why? Views from the highest spot in the wilderness

Season: July through September

Ease: Moderate. It’s 2.2 miles and 800 feet up to the lookout from the Teepee Trailhead.

If you want to see the Wenaha Tucannon wilderness the easy way, hike to Oregon Butte. From there you can see most of the area’s high country, and a bit of its low. With a map or the lookout’s fire locator, you can identify the drainages, ridges and peaks of the Wenaha-Tucannon. In fact, the fire locator makes it almost impossible to mess up when you lay down your map.

According to the couple that peopled the lookout for many years, on clear nights it’s possible to see the clock tower on the WSU campus (not well enough to tell time, however), Mts. Rainer and Adams, and the green flash that precedes a sunset. On a clear Forth of July, fireworks from Enterprise, Joseph, Flora, the Tri-cities and Pullman are visible.

The trail to Oregon Butte is well used, soft and dusty with lots of dry horse manure. Most of the time it passes through the woods, though there are occasional views back toward the trailhead at the start, and of your destination later on. It detours around the first hilltop, then climbs West Butte Ridge. Just before the top of West Butte, the trail divides. The right fork goes over the top of the butte, as seen on the topo, and the left stays below it. They join at the saddle between West and Oregon Buttes. The lookout on the latter is visible now and again in open areas, but not after you start the climb up Oregon Butte.

The lookout itself is on a short spur up off the main trail. Because the hike to the butte is short, you’ve time to explore the surrounding area even if you just day-hike to it. If you like to bushwhack I suggest exploring the smaller of the two Grizzly Bear Ridges in this small wilderness. This one juts out to the southeast from Oregon Butte. You can wander most of its length until a deep gully stops all but the most agile. Oregon Butte has several campsites, one of which sits on the saddle and offers views of both sunrises and sunsets.

Unfortunately, the trail to toward Weller goes through it. If you camp at the Butte take an empty gallon milk jug or two. The spring is a long way downhill from most of the campsites.

Trail Note: In addition to the fork in the trail below the top of West Butte, the trail forks after Oregon Spring, where water is accessible in a huge hollowed out log. The right will head you to the lookout. (It’s actually a connector to the Smooth Ridge trail (hike 7) which has a spur to the lookout on the right further up. The Smooth Ridge trail will eventually start down while the spur doesn’t. The lookout trail is along the ridge line so it’s easy to see where you’re going after a bit.

Directions: Turn left off Highway 12 about 4 miles west of Pomeroy at milepost 399 onto Tatman Mt. Road. Turn right onto the Blind Grade 6.3 miles later and left when it ends at the Tucannon River. In about 11 miles turn right onto road 4620 and follow it up the hill to the right about 1 mile later. Turn left at the monument in the road 3 miles later and left onto Road 4608 11 miles later, just before Godman. Teepee trailhead is at this road’s end, about 6 ½ miles in (Stay right at the 3-way fork about 3-4 miles in).

Information: Pomeroy Ranger District, UNF, (509) 843-1891.

Maps: USGS Oregon Butte, Washington; Forest Service Wenaha Tucannon Wilderness Map.

Connections: Oregon Butte is a good take off spot for a backpack, or a good base camp. You can hike north, toward Diamond Peak along the Mt. Misery Trail, or south along the Smooth Ridge Trail toward Weller Butte, a hike that starts with a descent around the side of Oregon Butte, across a saddle and past Danger Point. If you’ve 5 days and the legs for a 45-mile trip, you might repeat a trip I made: from Oregon Butte over to Weller Butte and along the Smooth Ridge Trail down to the Wenaha River, along the Wenaha to Crooked, then Third and Trout Creeks to Indian Corral and back to the Teepee Trailhead along the Mount Misery Trail.