Bluegrass Butte is the unofficial name given to a 5306' peak located five miles northeast of Silverton,WA. This is a rarely summited peak, lost in the clutter of the taller and more prominent peaks that surround it. It really does deserve more attention from local peakbaggers, as it is positioned in such a way as to give great views in all directions for a modest amount of work. It would also make a nice "2fer" for anyone who is in the area for the purpose of climbing Independence Peak, as the climbing routes for both mountains start at essentially the same spot.
Drive the Mountain Loop Highway east from Granite Falls for 26 miles to the Coal Lake Road (FR4060). Turn left onto this road, follow it 4.8 miles to the end, and park at the trailhead for Independence Lake (elev 3580'). Hike FS trail #712 0.8 miles to Independence Lake (elev 3720'). From here, take FS trail #712.1 towards North Lake. Hike for 1.5 miles to the ridge crest south of point 5072' (don't be fooled by the minor ridge crest 0.3 miles before this point on the west side of Point 5072'). At this point, you will notice the climber's path leading right towards Independence Peak. Continue straight ahead on the main trail towards North Lake for 0.25 miles, until reaching a sharp right switchback (you will descend slightly and go through a small switchback before getting to this point, just don't make the big drop towards North Lake).
Bluegrass Butte from Independence Peak. Red line shows approximate scramble route.
At the aforementioned trail switchback, you should be about 100' below the ridge crest to your left. Make a slightly rising traverse to the crest of the ridge. Follow the ridge crest north for 0.25 miles. Where the ridge begins to turn northeast, you will start to encounter a few small cliff bands. Drop off the ridge crest to your right (lake side) to avoid the cliff bands, and make a gradual descent to the obvious saddle just north of North Lake (total distance from the switchback will be about 0.5 miles). From here, simply head straight up towards the summit, staying right of any cliff bands. The scramble to the summit will be mostly class 2, with just a few feet of class 3 moves close to the summit.
White Chuck Mountain from Bluegrass Butte
Mount Pugh and Glacier Peak from Bluegrass Butte
Independence Peak from Bluegrass Butte
Devils Peak and Devils Thumb from Bluegrass Butte
Helena Peak from Bluegrass Butte
East side of Three Fingers from Bluegrass Butte. Summit of Voodoo Peak at bottom of photo.
Salish Peak, Mount Bullon, and Ohio Peak from Bluegrass Butte
East side of Whitehorse from Bluegrass Butte
Jumbo Mountain from Bluegrass Butte
Bluegrass Butte summit pano
Independence Peak/Bluegrass Butte route map
A Northwest Forest pass is required to park at the Independence Lake trailhead.
When to Climb
The Independence Lake Trailhead lies at 3600' - it will usually be snow-free from July to October.
Independence Lake or North Lake would both be great for camping in this area. From looking at photos and maps, one could most likely make an ascent of Bluegrass Butte by circumnavigating North Lake counter-clockwise and climbing the south slope, but this has not been tested by yours truly. Circumnavigating North Lake clockwise does not work, due to cliff bands on the west side of the lake.
North Lake and Independence Peak
"In times like these, it is helpful to remember that there have always been times like these."