Van Patten Butte is a member of the Elkhorn Range, which is a sub-range of Oregon’s Blue Mountains. It is the highest of a local group of mountains that form the abrupt northern terminus of the Elkhorns. The block shaped summit is formed by a relatively flat, 0.3 mile long ridge that has two high points at the west (8,729 ft.) and east (8,648 ft.) ends. The flanks and ridges leading off of the four corners are very rugged with numerous cliffs and obstructing rock. The mountain separates primitive Dutch Flat Creek to the south and Antone Creek to the north, rising over 2,000 ft. above each. The summit offers excellent views of the peaks and basins in the Anthony Lakes vicinity to the west and the Wallowa Mountains across Baker Valley to the east.
Van Patten Lake occupies the large subalpine basin that is approximately 1,400 feet below on the mountain’s northeast flank. The main connecting ridge to the east rises to an unnamed point (8,412 ft.) that has over 300 feet of prominence and is referred to as Van Patten Ridge on most maps. The south side of this point has tremendous cliffs and rugged rock formations. The northern Blue Mountains are formed exclusively of granite. Refer to the overview section of the nearby Gunsight Mountain for a geologic summary.
Whether coming from the north or south on Interstate 84, take exit 285 at North Powder and head west on North Powder River Lane (county road 101) for 4.0 miles. Turn left on Ellis Road and continue for 0.6 mile to the junction with the Anthony Lakes Highway. Turn right on the Anthony Lakes Highway and continue for 13.2 miles to road 1634, which is signed for Van Patten Lake. Turn left. Continue a very short distance to what appears to be the second road to the left. This area has been highly disturbed in the past and small roads and paths run all over the place. The main road should be recognizable however. Most people will want to park here and start hiking up this second road. It is possible to drive another 100 or 200 yards, but most will go no further. The road becomes extremely rugged and only those with very high clearance 4wd vehicles who know what they are doing should continue. The rough road section of the trail will continue for approximately 1 mile to a small turn around area at the trailhead. Take the trail for a little less than a mile to Van Patten Lake. The ridge to the west of the lake and the head of the basin to the south offer routes to the top of Van Patton Butte, which rises southwest of the lake.
Anthony Lake Campground is another 2.5 miles up the highway to the west of the 1634 road turnoff. There are also many good undeveloped camping spots at Van Patton Lake, especially on the east side, for those wanting to backpack in.
When to Climb
Most people climb the mountain from late July to October. The summit would be very hard to access during the winter. The north slopes are not far off the highway, but they are very steep and frequently swept by avalanches.
Baker Ranger District
3165 10th Street
Baker City, Oregon 97814