Lone Butte stands right in the middle of the diamond shape formed by Rainier, St. Helens, Adams and Hood. As such it afford excellent views of each of them in all directions as well as part of the Columbia Gorge. It's an easy summit in summer as you can drive to a spot near the summit and walk up through the forest and rock (there's no trail though) but it really makes for a great winter summit when you can't get to the big Cascade peaks.
The mountain has a neat geologic history as it was formed by an eruption that occurred under either glacial ice or a meltwater lake. This kind of volcano is called a "tuya". The lower part of the mountain is composed of pillow basalt that forms when it erupts under water and appears lumpy. On a winter ascent when snow-covered this is greatly accented. The top 200 feet of the mountain are where the basalt core rises through the trees. There are also neat lava dikes on the northeastern side of the mountain.
At the part of the hike where the road/trail ends there is an old quarry site on the southwestern part of the mountain where you can see the various strata easily. If you hike around the west side of the mountain there is a large snowfield in winter that looks like it would make a neat steep snowclimb although the easier way to the summit is around the southern side of the quarry.
Not many people make a winter ascent and it makes for a neat day of cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Depending on conditions, an ice axe and crampons might be warranted as well. The only problem in the winter is the sound of snowmobiles on the trails below. But, in winter you get an approach from the snow park of 3 miles. The top 600 or so feet of elevation gain would require skins on skis though.
All in all, this is a fun mountain with great views and some neat sites along the trail.
To get to Lone Butte requires travel on Interstate 84 from either the east (Spokane/The Dalles) or the west (Seattle/Portland). If you are coming from the east in Washington though you can also take Highway 14.
Take I-84 to Cascade Locks, OR and go across the Bridge of the Gods ($0.75 toll for cars) to the Washington side of the Columbia River. Turn right onto Highway 14 and go through the town of Stevenson. A few miles after Stevenson turn left at the sign for Carson (Wind River Road, the main drag through town) and go north. You will continue on Wind River Road but note that at about the 10 mile mark you will take the right fork which is just a few hundred feet north of the Carson National Fish Hatchery. From here continue on several miles to the fourth and last snow park (the Lone Butte Snow Park). Be careful in winter as the winding corners get icy and there are some steep dropoffs in places.
If you are driving there in summer it is possible to continue on another 1.7 miles to the junction of Road 30 (Road 30 begins at the Lone Butte Snow Park) and Road 65 (Road 65 comes from the right). From that point you can continue on another .5 miles to a small jeep road on the left. This is the "road" to the quarry site and unless you have a high clearance vehicle, you may want to park your car at this intersection.
Snow park pass is required to park at the snow park. (This is NOT the same thing as a Northwest Forest Pass, this is another way they get money out of you.) You can buy these at any outdoor store and some grocery stores as well in the area. There is a store on Wind River Road between Carson and the fork to the right in the little town of Stabler called the Stabler Country Store that sells snow park passes as well. It's on the left side of the road as you head north. Be careful to count your money back though as I discovered later that I got short-changed.
When To Climb
Year-round but it's really an easy hike in the summer. Winter ascents are much more rewarding.
Camping is allowed in the area. I recall seeing the Beaver Campsite nearby and it is on this link.
For the nearest town's (Carson) lodging, click here.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
6926 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.
Vancouver, WA 89669-8944