Though far to the south of the heart of the Cascade Range in Washington and Oregon, the Lassen Cascade is an archetype of the Cascade landscape. Volcanic features abound in this region, including active geothermal features, lava flows, lava caves, and high volcanoes. In fact, all four types of volcanoes, stratovolcanoes, shield volcanoes, plug domes and cinder cones, are all found in this area. The Thousand Lakes Wilderness, just north of Lassen Volcanic National Park, has many of these features as well. In addition to the remnants of the Thousand Lakes stratovolcano, there is a large shield volcano and several cinder cones. Of the cinder cones, none is more strategically located than Eiler Butte.
Eiler Butte is a classic cinder cone. Its form is conical, with the tip of the cone seemingly cut off and a crater exposed. The butte is not as stark perfect in form as the famed Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Even within the Thousand Lakes Wilderness, the butte is not the largest or tallest cinder cone, a distinction that goes to nearby Hall Butte. Nonetheless Eiler Butte is still an attractive specimen of its type. More importantly is the butte’s position. Eiler Butte is located on the eastern edge of the Thousand Lakes Valley, a valley created by the movement of an ancient glacier. Though the glacier has long since melted away, it left several lakes and ponds behind. Though only a handful of the numerous bodies of water would be categorized as exceptionally scenic, the profusion of the small ponds is what gave rise to the area’s name. There are several lakes directly around the base of Eiler Lake including some of the more notable lakes that populate the Thousand Lakes Valley. The most notable is, of course, Eiler Lake. This is the largest lake in the wilderness. Eiler Butte rises directly out of eastern end of the lake. Indeed, Eiler Butte and Freaner Peak have combined to impound the lake. A small and often dry creek emerges from beneath the ground a short distance east of the lake. This subterranean channel is Eiler Lake’s only outlet. Nearby Box Lake is also one of the largest lakes in the wilderness. Unlike Eiler Lake, Box Lake does tend to dry up late in the season. When it does, it leaves two attractive meadows, a fairly uncommon occurrence in this densely wooded area.
Situated at the east end of the Thousand Lakes Valley, Eiler Butte’s position gives it what may be the finest view of all the summits of the peaks in the Thousand Lakes Wilderness, excepting only those on the summit of the old Thousand Lakes volcano. On the east side of the rim, it is possible to look out on the greater Hat Creek area. From the west side of the rim of Eiler Butte, it is possible to look up at Freaner Peak and down on Eiler Lake. Although there is no completely unobstructed view of these features, the views are still fine and worth the climb in their own right. However, it is the clear, unobstructed view into the crater of the Thousand Lakes volcano that sets the view from the top of Eiler Butte apart. No other point in the wilderness affords such a fascinating view of the crater and the Thousand Lakes Valley. Nearby Freaner Peak, though significantly taller than Eiler Butte does not share the same exceptional view of the crater since it is situated just a little too far to the north. The opportunity to peer into the crater through the breach cut into the crater rim by the ancient glacier is worth the climb to the top of the butte. Stretching out from the crater are the two glacial moraines. In addition to the views of the crater, the secondary glacial valley capped by Fredonyer Peak is visible on the north side of the old volcano. All of these views combine to make a memorable vista. Although Eiler Butte may not be the most notable peak in the Thousand Lakes Wilderness, a sunrise from its summit is surely the most notable vista short of being on the shores of Everett Lake or on the crater rim.
The southern and western sides of Eiler Butte are skirted by the Thousand Lakes Valley Loop. Although it is possible to climb the butte from any side, the best option is to climb it from the area directly above Eiler Lake. The reason for this is the proliferation of trees, whose roots hold the extremely loose cinders together. There are even a few deer trails in this section that make convenient switchbacks towards the summit. The southern side of the butte is largely bare of vegetation. While it is possible to climb here, it is a very frustrating endeavor as the loose cinders collapse underfoot and one is prone to sliding backward as much as making progress toward the summit.
Although the Thousand Lakes Valley Loop can be accessed by all four trailheads that service the Thousand Lakes Wilderness, the Cypress and Tamarack trailheads are closest to the loop and Eiler Butte. Indeed, the loop and the Tamarack Trail join at the base of the butte.
Campgrounds are abundant in the Hat Creek Valley. The Honn Campground is halfway between Forest Roads 34N19 and 34N25, the roads that provide access to the Cypress and Tamarack trailheads. Dispersed camping is permitted anywhere along the roads and at the trailheads. Within the wilderness, there are numerous excellent campgrounds. The best are going to be found at Everett and Magee Lakes and at Eiler Lake. The latter in particular is convenient since its eastern end abuts the base of Eiler Butte. If one is set on a sunrise from the top of the butte, this is the place to set up camp.
From Highway 89 just north of the Forest Service's Hat Creek Work Station, head west on Forest Road 34N19, which is also road 26. Once on the road climb to the south and then it will cross a ridge and head west. At approximately 8 miles, turn left on Forest Road 34N60. Proceed to the road's end at the trailhead. The road is signed to the trailhead.
On Highway 89 south of the Honn Campground, head west on Forest Road 34N25. This road climbs up a few switchbacks before leveling off and heading south. After approximately 5.5 miles, turn west on Forest Road 34N25L. Proceed a short distance to the trialhead. The road is signed to the trailhead.
Eiler Butte is in the Thousand Lakes Wilderness. Normal wilderness rules and ethics apply within the wilderness area. A free permit is needed for entry into the wilderness. They may be obtained at the USFS Old Station Visitor's Center.
Lassen National Forest
2550 Riverside Drive
Susanville, CA 96130
Old Station Visitor Center
13435 Brian's Way
Old Station, CA 96071