At 9,106 feet, Rock Creek Butte is the highest point in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. Rock Creek Butte lies on Elkhorn Ridge along with Elkhorn Peak about 14 miles west of Baker City, Oregon. The Elkhorns are separated from the Wallowas by the Baker Valley. The view from the top ranges from the Wallowas in the East to the Strawberry Mountains in the West. Mountain goats can usually be found near Twin Lakes and on the Mountain itself. Judging by the summit register, Rock Creek Butte is usually summited by fewer than 20 parties a year. Rock Creek Butte is #5 on the list of Oregon peaks with over 2000 feet of prominence.
The southern Elkhorn Mountains are composed of material that was once deep oceanic mud and cherts, which lithified to form the sedimentary rock argillite. Between 220 and 180 million years ago, these rocks were accreted to the advancing North American continent. They were severely folded and faulted in the process. Beginning about 8 million years ago, a fault system known as the Olympic-Wallowa lineament has raised the Elkhorn and Wallowa Mountains more than a mile and created the Grand Ronde Valley. Ice Age glaciers have since carved the many U-shaped valleys seen today.
Gold was discovered in this area in 1862, sparking the gold mining boomtowns of Auburn, Sumpter, Bourne, Granite, and Greenhorn. The gold boom has passed, but there are still a few active claims left in the area.
There is no trail to Rock Creek Butte’s summit, but the Elkhorn Crest trail crosses it’s southwestern slope, and the final half mile is a pretty easy scramble. The Elkhorn Crest trail can be accessed from either Marble Pass, or via the Twin Lakes trail. Marble pass is a gentler trail, but getting there requires high clearance and possibly 4 wheel drive. The Twin Lakes trail is steeper, but is much easier on your car. The round trip distance via Twin Lakes is about 11 miles with an elevation gain of 3700 feet.
Elkhorn Peak is an easy side trip that is well worth doing and is also an easy scramble. Both summits can easily be done in a long day.
Since this area is home to Deer, Elk, Bear, and Mountain goats, and is a popular big game hunting area, it is recommended that you wear bright colors during hunting season.
Getting ThereTo reach the Twin Lakes trailhead from Baker City, head west on Highway 7 for about 21.5 miles, and turn right onto Deer Creek Road between mileposts 29 and 28. Continue on this road about 4 miles to a 4-way intersection, and continue straight onto forest road #030 for 3 miles to the trail head. The final 1/2 mile is rough, but passable to most vehicles.
To reach Marble Pass from Baker City, from the intersection of 10th and Main, follow Main Street for 1.1 miles to a flashing yellow light, and turn left onto Pocohontas Road. Follow this for 7.6 miles to Marble creek road. Go straight on Marble creek (FR 5610) for 8 miles. The last 4 miles require a high clearance vehicle and possibly 4 wheel drive.
Red TapeThere were no signs requiring a forest pass at the Twin Lakes trailhead.
When To ClimbJuly through October, the roads may be snowed under outside of this time.
There are a few good campsites at Twin Lakes. The Deer Creek campground is also on the way to the trailhead. To get there, turn left at the 4-way intersection mentioned in “getting there” onto FR 6550 for about 2.5 miles.
NOAA forecast for southern Elkhorn region
Wallowa Whitman National Forest.
Baker Ranger District
3285 11th St.
P. O. Box 947
Baker City, OR 97814
Most recent summer and winter recreation report for Baker Ranger District
For more information on snow depth and precipitation in the area, check out the NWCC - SNOTEL
site located at this point about three miles north of Rock Creek Butte at elevation 5400 feet.