OverviewCrow Butte was written in the Chadron Record newspaper. According to Lists of John, Crow Butte has 340 feet of prominence. The National Elevation Dataset lists Crow Butte as one of the top 10 steepest summits in Nebraska. Like many of the best summits in the state, Crow Butte is on private lands.
Bighorn sheep and deer are seen on Crow Butte, and there are rare sightings of mountain lions. Rattlesnakes can be a problem on some parts of Crow Butte, except during winter. It's reported that the northern slope has a rattlesnake den in the middle of the burned trees there.
However, the greatest difficulty in reaching the summit is a combination of soft rock, sometimes unstable, along with the extent of the sheer sides around the butte. There are two routes that make the summit accessible, but both lead to the same access point on the north ridge. For those who have climbed Crow Butte, there is pretty much a consensus that this is one of the very best summits to climb in the state. The climb is challenging, the views are outstanding and the history of the area makes it all that much more interesting.
The Fires of 2012
Crow Butte did not fare as bad as some of the areas, but still sustained damage from both the fires and the storm. Since it is all on private property, it is even more essential that would-be hikers and climbers make sure they have permission to hike and climb on Crow Butte.
Getting ThereCrow Butte can be reached by county roads, either from Highway 20, or from Highways 2 & 71. Squaw Creek Road runs along the west side of Crow Butte, while West Ash Creek Road runs along the north side. Since Crow Butte is just a few miles southeast of Crawford, probably the best thing for visitors to do is stop at the National Forest Service office at 125 North Main Street in Chadron and pick up a map of the area. Chadron is around 25 miles east of Crow Butte, on Highways 20 & 385. The forest service map will show main roads and back roads, plus where public and private property lines are at. They will also be able to help you determine who currently owns the land around the butte, and advise you on how to contact the landowners for access permission.
Which property owner that you obtain permission from to climb Crow Butte will largely determine your route. However, there are really only two reasonable routes to the summit, and both merge at the north end of the summit ridge on a ledge there. As you can see on the map above, probably the best place to start either route is from the southeast side. If you have to bushwhack in from the west or north, it may just be easier to pick up the route at the ravine between the butte and the rock spires immediately to the west. The western route will likely take a little longer considering the terrain, but it is the best side of the ridge to scramble to the summit.
When To ClimbCrow Butte is adjacent to prime hunting land, and so each spring and then again in fall the hunters turn out in large numbers. This is another good reason to work out timing with permission from the local land owners. Of course weather will also be a major consideration, so you will want to be up-to-date on the local forecast by clicking here:
Crow Butte - Fort Robinson Area Weather
On another hike to Crow Butte, our group found along a game trail in the forest a boulder with a "face". We could not tell if this was a natural occurrence, or had been chiseled by humans long ago.
Crow Butte Outfitters may be the quickest resource for obtaining permission for a climb. You can access their website by clicking here:
Crow Butte Outfitters
Fort Robinson State Park
Chadron State Park