Buck Lake Approach:
From SR 410, take the Nile Rd. (lower or upper bridge) and then the Rattlesnake Creek Road (Bethel Ridge turnoff) to McDaniel Lake. Continue on the Forest Service road above McDaniel Lake until it ends at the trailhead for the east end of the Mt. Aix Trail.
Other, longer approaches are possible including from the west Mt Aix. trailhead on Deep Creek Road in the Bumping Valley or to the north at various trailheads. A traverse from Mt. Aix is also possible.
There is no trail to the summit of Nelson Butte, a couple of possible routes that can be combined for a loop are provided:
Nelson Butte from the spires - Early July
Buck Lake Direct:
Roundtrip distance: ~8 miles
Elev. Gain: ~3200 ft.
Leave the trail after passing Buck Lake and hike up steep forested slopes to the left of an open scree slope. There are some cool spires and a campsite at the top of the ridge.
An alternative is to leave the trail not far from the trailhead and follow along the top of the ridge located above the trail and Buck lake on game trails to the spires.
From the spires, scramble up the southeast ridge of Nelson Butte. Snow lingers in the ridge into June and an ice axe is helpful. Later climb on talus and sometimes unstable boulders.
Dog Creek Trail Saddle (West):
Continue on the trail past Buck Lake and take the Dog Creek trail to a saddle on the west side of Nelson Butte. From the saddle, scramble up the west ridge to the summit.
- Wilderness permit required