OverviewChelan Butte is a low-elevation peak located in Chelan County, Washington. Despite its modest elevation, Chelan Butte is one of Chelan County's most commonly summited mountains and one of the most prominent peaks in Washington. With 2275' of prominence, Chelan Butte is Washington's 103rd-most prominent peak.
The summit route is very straightforward. A road, Chelan Butte Road, leads all the way to the summit. Although the road is accessible to public use, most of the trek is on a dirt road which has been known to be rutted-out and muddy in places. Many people opt to hike up the summit road rather than drive it, especially during periods of possible inclement weather and road conditions.
The summit was once an ideal location for a fire lookout. Built in 1938, the Chelan Butte Lookout was operated by the Department of Natural Resources until 1984. Later, on December 27, 1990, the lookout building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Then, in an effort to preserve the structure, the lookout was removed from the summit of Chelan Butte during 1995 and moved to the "Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center" in the nearby town of Entiat during 1996. The Chelan Butte summit is now home to multiple communications towers.
Although public access to the summit area is allowed, public access to the communications towers is prohibited. As a result, the towers are fenced-in. Unfortunately, this includes the true highest point of the mountain, for which a USGS benchmark and the highest (reddish-colored) rock can be seen in one of the fenced areas. The highest point allowed for public access is a large boulder located on the east side of the communications towers, and can be reached by walking on large rocks along the fenceline. Several metal pegs and anchors can still be found embedded into boulders there, lone remnants of the fire lookout which once stood on the mountaintop.
The summit area offers fantastic views in all directions. These views include major points of interest such as the central Cascade Mountains, Lake Chelan, and Columbia River. Although a low-elevation peak, with no other major peaks immediately surrounding the mountain the views are far-reaching and awe-inspiring. In addition, the mountain slopes have many areas full of wildflowers during Spring months. These aspects make traveling to the summit a popular choice for many locals and tourists alike.
The mountain is also perhaps the most popular launch spot for hang-gliders. An area is located several hundred feet down and south of the summit, dedicated to hang-glider usage.
FROM CHELAN, WASHINGTON:
1) Drive west along Highway 97A, which traverses north of Chelan Butte along Lake Chelan.
2) At Millard Street, between Mileposts 233 & 232 in the community of "Lakeside", turn left (south).
NOTE: There might be an arrowed sign indicating "Chelan Butte Road" at this road intersection.
3) Follow Millard Street, which quickly becomes Chelan Butte Road, all the way to the summit area. The total distance from Highway 97A to the summit is 4.5 miles, one-way. The road is paved for the first 1.2 miles, at which point a "Primitive Road" sign marks the beginning of the road becoming dirt and rock for the remainder of the trek.
NOTE: The dirt portion of the road is not recommended during wet weather conditions.
Red TapeAccording to the Washington Trails Association (WTA), beginning during 2011 a Discover Pass is required for parking and access to Chelan Butte. For more information regarding the Discover Pass, please visit the official website.
Hang-glider pilots are required to always have a fire extinguisher and shovel in every vehicle visiting the mountain. It is unclear if regular passenger vehicles have the same requirement. Chelan County's concern is that warm vehicles could trigger wildfires during hot climate conditions. Chelan Butte Road is very well-trodden and has very little amount of growth anywhere on the road, but extra caution is advised.