Stein Butte (Southern Oregon) 31-Dec-2014

Stein Butte Southern Oregon

The trail to Stein Butte (USFS #929) is one of the classic hikes in Southern Oregon’s Upper Applegate River Valley. It was a beautiful sunny, bluebird day but so cold in the morning (18ºF) that it proved impossible to coax The LovedOne from beneath the down comforter.  So I was forced to go it alone for this, the last hike of 2014.  Sigh.


I settled on the Stein Butte Trail (USFS #929) because it didn’t require any tricky driving on possibly icy roads and promised big views. Sullivan (Hike #66 in his 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (Third Edition)) calls it a “motorcycle” trail – you are allowed to ride motorcycles on it but it didn’t look as though many people do that. Otherwise it proved to be a nearly perfect hiking trail. By the time I got to the trailhead at Seattle Bar, the air temperature had reached the low 30ºFs and there it stayed.

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
A cold day enroute to Stein Butte

The first 2.5 miles involved a climb on long, gentle switchbacks up through an open forest,

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
Along the Stein Butte Trail

to the top of Elliott Creek Ridge.

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
Topping out on Elliott Ridge

The remainder of the hike was along the ridge, with sweeping views of the Red Buttes to the south in California,

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
The Red Buttes from Elliott Ridge

and of Little Grayback Mountain and Mule Mountain to the north.

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
Little Grayback Mountain (left), with Mule Mountain in the distance

The trail generally follows the top of the ridge,

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
Along Elliott Ridge

but contours steep slopes around the larger bumps to avoid any significant ups and downs.

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
Along Elliott Ridge

It’s a short hike, so the butte’s summit came into view pretty quickly,

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
First look at the snowy summit of Stein Butte

and shortly thereafter, I was on the summit itself, eating lunch at what remains of the old lookout.  From there, I had a view west toward Grayback Mountain, Big Sugarloaf Peak, and Applegate Reservoir,

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
Grayback and Big Sugarloaf on the horizon; Applegate Lake in the foreground

with the reservoir showing the effects of its seasonal drawdown. It’s designed to fill 7 years out of 10 – 2014, thanks to the drought in California and Southern Oregon, was one of those low fill years.

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
Applegate Lake drawn down

To the east, I could see several peaks running north from Mount Ashland.

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
Mount McLoughlin (M), Wagner Butte (W.), Mount Ashland (A)

On the way back, I noticed that something had been clawing at a madrone – if it was a bear, it’s hopefully now a hibernating one!

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
A clawed madrone

A wonderful little hike (9.4 miles roundtrip; 2,400 feet of elevation gain) to end the year with!

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
My track to and from Stein Butte

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015!

We hope you all get to enjoy many great hikes in the new year!

Stein Butte Southern Oregon
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