OverviewGranite Butte is a mountain located in the Southern Wallowa range. As the name suggests it is a large chunk of granite with a large north face.
Granite Butte is peak #47 on the Howbert List of Oregon's 100 highest peaks.
Getting There*I will note in in advance that trails in the Eagle Cap wilderness are often overgrown or difficult to stay on. The trails below may be maintained at some point in the future, but you should be prepared to navigate on your own with a map at any point along the trip. Game trails are numerous above 6,000 feet and often mimic the real trail.
**The directions below are incomplete as I don't have the Wallowa Map on me to denote distances and trail numbers. I will get one soon and update the page accordingly. Undoubtedly these directions sound confusing. I can tell you it was twice as frustrating actually trying to figure out where the trails were.
Take I-84 to La Grande, Oregon. Turn East on exit 265 onto Highway 203 and head to Union, Oregon (11.3 miles). The highway turns as it enters Union. Head south through Union to E Beakman St. and take a left.
At this point Granite Butte can be climbed two ways: On its own, or in a loop with China Cap (and possibly Burger Butte).
To climb Granite Butte over Mule Peak
Head 14 miles on highway 203 and look for a green fourway post sign. There will be a parking/camping area on your right. Take a left onto the FS road 77. Stay on this road for about 9.9 miles. Turn left onto FS road 600. Follow this for 3.6 miles and take a right onto FS road 650. About 400 feet up the road is a trailhead, and creek with a campsite and parking (total distance 27.4 miles). The trailhead is for trail 1912, the Sand Creek Trailhead. Follow the road/converted trail, up about 2 miles. The keep track of the signs. There will be a sign on your right noting the Sand creek trail (a brown FS sign). The trail turns off the road and climbs to the left switchbacking up to the ridge crest. Follow this trail another 1 miles as it heads up the ridge (this ridge in fact goes all the way to Mule Peak). The trail will fairly suddenly disappear as it enters an open field with drainage streams running down the mountain. There is a pile of rocks with a vertical stick demarcating a left turn. Further, there are five rocks in the ground "blocking" an apparent trail going right (by blocking the rocks are about 3 inches high so you can walk over them...as we did our first time). Turn left. Follow the trail about .25 miles until you see another pile of rocks with a vertical stick out of the ground. This is the divergence of the Sand creek trail and the Mule Peak/Granite Butte summit trail. Take a right and follow the switchbacks up over Mule Peak to Granite Butte. If so inclined, follow the summit trail past Granite Butte down to Sand Pass and back down the alternate trail to complete a loop. Or just go back the way you came.****
To climb China Cap and Burger Butte via Burger Pass
Alternate Route: Continue on highway 203 for 11.4 miles and look for Catherine Creek Lane on your left. Take a left and head 4.2 miles (do not turn at 3.0 miles stay left on the main road) to the Buck Creek crossing i.e. FS Road 7787. Take a right and cross the creek. Follow this 3.9 miles and take a left. Go 0.3 miles, and park at the dirt parking lot.
*For this route I used the China Cap trail directions from the China Cap page. The truth is the bridge for Buck Creek has been out for several years. Fortunately, as we were driving by Buck Creek, we found out that the FS was rebuilding the bridge. So very soon (possibly by the end of the summer of 2010). This will be a viable route for both China Cap and Granite Butte.
Alternate route for the alternate route (if the bridge is still out):
Do not turn right at 4.2 miles. Stay left instead and go another 1.8 miles to a road on your right (Squaw Creek I believe). Ford the creek! (not passable in early season) Climb up the road about 0.5 miles and look for a trail on your right. The trail is on a maps of the Wallowas. (I'll get the info from my friend in a bit and add it to the page). There is no sign or anything. The trail has been converted from at old road. So keep your eyes peeled. The trail will cross the creek, go up over the ridge, and join 7787 at 0.7 miles of hiking.
Follow the trail to Burger pass (3.25 miles, 7900 feet). From Burger Pass descend to the marsh below at 7500 feet (0.75 miles). From the marsh the trail will cut up Sand Pass (0.5 miles, 8050 feet). At Sand Pass look up the arm of Granite Butte (to the East). There is a trail heading up and around the arm. Follow it to the summit.
The trail continues via the standard route down to the Sand Creek trailhead.
***A loop with a car at either end can be done using the standard and alternate route. Allow, however, 2 hours from Union to drive the cars to each trailhead and continue hiking. The alternate-alternate route has no parking, so you may have to either hike in or backtrack from a viable parking spot.
****Sand Creek beyond the Mule Peak/Granite Butte summit trail, is not a viable trail. It quickly disappears going through a burn and and a marshy area. Further, at the pass the ground is...sand. So the last 500 feet of the trail are gone anyway. While attempting to descend the trail, our group had to do significant route finding, before finally giving up and just following the creek bed. We found the trail less that .25 miles before it joined the summit trail. My recommendation is not to use this trail beyond the stated cut off. It has not been maintained and is not clearly marked anywhere that we could see.
Red TapeThe regulations for the wilderness are stated here:
Please note the permit regulation guidelines.
Allow me to note that a good map of the Wallows is essential. Not for the trails, which often disappear or don't exist, but for the terrain, and route finding purposes. Many of these trails get less than a handful of people a year, and parts of the wilderness may not get a single explorer for several years.
CampingCamping is allowed in the wilderness, however, as above there are strict guidelines for doing so. Certain areas are being restored and are off limits for camping.
It may be worthwhile to camp in the national forest since Granite Butte is located so close to the edge of the wilderness where less restrictions are applied.
External LinksThe regulations:
A general map:
(click on the maps for links to specific recreation opportunities)