Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 46.38703°N / 103.30257°W
Additional Information Elevation: 3506 ft / 1069 m
Sign the Climber's Log

Overview

White Butte, North Dakota is located approximately halfway between the towns of Amidon, ND and Bowman, ND. White Butte is the highest point in the state of North Dakota. Rising to an altitude of 3,506 feet (1,069m) above sea level, it is the 31st highest summit of U.S. state highpoints [Wikipedia link].

While best known for its status as the North Dakota state highpoint, White Butte is also the highpoint of Slope County. The second highest point in the state and county, nearby Black Butte [Peakbagger link], with an elevation of 3,470 feet (1,058m) and a prominence of 448 feet (137m) is approximately 17 miles away [Google Maps link].

Most of the buttes in the area exhibit a chalky white color resulting from bentonite clay found in the local rocks and soil. The adjacent terrain shows signs of glaciation. The advance of massive ice sheets scoured the land, leaving a mostly flat landscape with scattered boulders transported by the extreme power of the glaciers. The topography of the area was formed in areas where the glaciers did not completely encase the surface, thus leaving the buttes in their wake. The glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age, approximately 10,000 years ago.

Highpoint History

  • Update: September 2004 - The land surrounding and including White Butte is owned by Daryle and Mary Dennis. The property owners may be contacted with questions during business hours at +1 701-879-6310. Please keep calls to reasonable hours (Mountain Time). It is not mandatory to request permission to access the trailhead; however, remember White Butte is on private property.
  • Update: December 2003 - Our condolences go to the VanDaele & Buzalsky families for the passing of Mrs. Angeline VanDaele on 20 October 2003. I know that myself, as well as many other hikers, enjoyed getting to know her when visiting White Butte, and we are all saddened to know that she will no longer be there to greet us. During this time, it is not certain what sort of access issues may arise, but please be especially respectful of the family's wishes.

When To Climb

While the route is open year round, seasonal changes on the Northern Plains present a variety of challenges. During Summer, cactus and scrub brush may be a minor annoyance, while rattlesnakes are a true danger to humans and pets alike. In addition, intermittent thunderstorms may roll in with little notice. Winters are generally cold, often with periods of significant snowfall and blustery winds leading to wind chill temperatures dangerously below zero.

The chalky terrain is extremely slippery when exposed to rain, snow, and ice. Considering the relatively short hike and mild elevation gain, a successful ascent is well within reason for an adventurer with seasonally appropriate clothing, footwear, hydration, and adequate navigation skills.

Theoretically, it's possible to claw and scramble one's way to a successful summit through brute force alone. However, for off-season and foul weather ascents, gaiters, snowshoes, MICROspikes, or Yaktrax may be beneficial if you've already invested in the equipment and have it readily available.

Getting There

There are discrepancies among online resources regarding the naming convention for various navigation points. The correct, pre-populated destination on Google Maps is labeled "White Butte Trailhead." In actuality, the Google Maps destination for "White Butte Trailhead" leads to the White Butte parking lot. "White Butte Trailhead" as identified on Google Maps is not the actual trailhead; however, it is the correct destination for purposes of vehicle navigation along the highway to the general location of the highpoint.

When using Google Maps for highway navigation, make sure to select "White Butte Trailhead" and not "White Butte, Chalky Butte, ND" from Google's pre-populated destinations. "White Butte, Chalky Butte, ND" is owned by a different landholder, fenced off, and clearly marked with multiple no trespassing signs [Credit sam807].

Vehicle access is only allowed at the trailhead parking lot. Do not drive up the access road to the abandoned farmhouse or the trailhead gate.

Correct Route via Google Maps from Bowman, ND to the White Butte Trailhead
Correct Route via Google Maps from Bowman, ND to the White Butte Trailhead
Incorrect route via Google Maps to White Butte, Chalky Butte, ND
Incorrect route via Google Maps to White Butte, Chalky Butte, ND

Camping and Lodging

  • The Frontier Travel Center truck stop [Google Maps link] in Bowman, ND provides 24-hour bathrooms, free wifi, food, gas, and overnight parking.
  • Campgrounds are available in and around the area of Amidon, ND [Google search link] for fair-weather ascents during tourist season.
  • Bowman, ND is the closest city with hotel lodging [Google search link] for non-campers and off-season ascents.

Red Tape

  • No permits are required.
  • No fixed fee is required to access the trail. Access is granted on a free-will donation basis which can be deposited in the Iron Ranger at the trailhead parking lot.
  • Vehicle access is only allowed at the trailhead parking lot. Do not drive up the access road to the abandoned farmhouse or the trailhead gate.
  • Make sure to close the trailhead gate to prevent livestock from escaping onto the surrounding land.
  • Make sure not to stray onto the adjoining land to the East. It is private property owned by a different landholder and is clearly marked "No Trespassing."
  • Please respect the rights of the private property landowners and Leave No Trace!
Trailhead Parking Lot
Trailhead Parking Lot
Iron Ranger installed by the Highpointers Foundation.org
Iron Ranger installed by the Highpointers Foundation.org

Route

  • North Slopes Route [Summitpost link]: The only permissible route to the summit without trespassing across private property. Please review the "North Slopes Route" page for coordinates, mileage, and detailed route information.
Garmin Birdseye North Slopes Route
Garmin Birdseye North Slopes Route

Miscellaneous Info

  • 2018-12-31: Strong and consistent cellular data service was confirmed on the highway and backroads en route to the trailhead and at the summit.

Trip Reports

External Links

Version History

  • 2019-01: Fully revamped the page; it hadn't been touched for over 14 years.
  • 2019-01: Corrected the elevation by -1 foot from 3507 feet to 3506 feet and summit coordinates per GPX track and Highpointers.org.
  • 2019-01: Cleaned up outdated and erroneous comments regarding bad directions, incorrect coordinates, required fees, and vehicle access allowed to the abandoned farmhouse (NO!).

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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jrlang45

jrlang45 - May 6, 2013 6:41 pm - Hasn't voted

Directions

Just returned from a highpointing trip to that area. Google and Garmin have made it easier to find the trailhead... the turn off of US 85 outside of Amidon is 140th Street, although there is no street sign (both Google and our Garmin recognized it). At the 5 mile point on 140th Street, the right hand turn is 67th Street, according to the Garmin. Google had it as an unnamed road, although Google DOES have that road plus the wagon road to the butte on its maps. When you get near the farmhouse, you'll see the mailbox along with an oil drum reading "Road Closed" on the left at the start of the wagon road (another, real road will intersect on the right). Driving that wagon road requires some clearance, and the clay/sand mix at parts is deceptively soft. Be careful.. we walked from the mailbox. When you get to the butte, stick to the fence on the left side, including on the way up the initial gulch... you will eventually find yourself approaching a small grove of stunted trees, this is how you know you're on the right trail. It will take you across the grass field from the trees to the butte, go up the butte and eventually cross you over to the other side. Once you get to the ridge on top of the butte the trail is very clear and worn, and you can see the cairn at the highpoint. Walk another 1/5th mile on the top and you're there.

slayte - Aug 6, 2013 9:46 pm - Hasn't voted

A few notes/clarifications

Notes from a July 21, 2013 visit: • Regarding whether the road to the abandoned farmhouse is passable by vehicle or not—as of our trip, the road past the mailbox is clearly marked with a “Road Closed” sign. Since the landowners don’t want folks driving to the farmhouse, we respected that (the distance from the mailbox to the farmhouse is a flat, pleasant 0.65 miles—certainly not worth losing access over). • As others have noted, the trail can be hard to follow in the section where it follows a sand wash. There is also a fork in the trail on the ascent up the butte (hint: take the right fork). I found that there was a well-placed cairn in every place where the trail was unclear. So, if in doubt, look around for a cairn. • The trail was overgrown with prairie grass, shrubs, and other vegetation in many places. We were in shorts; I found it irritating to my legs, and one in our party broke out in welts. I would recommend long pants for this hike. • The wind was blowing a steady 15mph on the flats and 25mph on the ridgelines. I found it very dehydrating and used a lot more water than would be expected. • About 5 feet SW of the USGS marker is a small ledge. There was a prairie rattlesnake sunning on this ledge that let us know it was there and then retreated into a burrow under the ledge. So, I would advise caution before doing your highpoint victory dance until you’ve made sure you’re not about to step on the highest rattlesnake in North Dakota. • The summit log only had about 4-5 blank pages left. If you’re heading up, bring a fresh one (needs to be small—3x5 or 4x6). • There were a few lingering wildflowers and a lot of dying ones--it looked like they peaked 1-2 weeks prior. The right timing would add a really nice extra dimension to this hike.

runningbudbrown - Oct 3, 2013 1:10 am - Hasn't voted

Notes from 10/2/2013 Trip

Decided to make the trip from Hill City, SD since all National Parks were closed in the area for the govt shutdown. Direction clarifications to the start of the hike up to White Butte were spot on. 1.8 miles east of Amidon on 85 turn right on gravel road. Go 4.8 miles and turn right on another gravel road. Go 0.8 miles to the big mailbox on the left side of the road and park there. Do not go to the farmhouse down the road or drive past the road closed sign. We left $20 in the mailbox for the privilege of hiking across the private land. Follow the tractor path toward White Butte past the road closed sign. We were careful to watch for snakes but Mr. No Shoulders was nowhere in sight. You pass an abandoned farmhouse on the right approximately halfway to the start of the climb up the butte. There is also a gate that you go through near the start of the climb. Do not cross over the fence into the pasture with posted no trespassing signs. The trail is well-worn and easy to follow. The trail forks after the gate. We went to the right and it lead to a short scramble up the dry white clay slope. This could be a problem on a wet day requiring a route closer to the fence line. The trail goes to a small orchard on the next tier and splits through the trees and around to the right on the approach. Both trails meet on the other side of the trees and continue up to a ridge line. Views of the shark fin and white eroded features of the lower parts of White Butte resemble the landscape of another planet. The remaining hike up the ridge to the summit is easy to follow with a well-marked trail. Others have posted elsewhere that there are no trails but that is not the case at all. At the summit is a cairn with a memorial plaque, a register box, and the survey mark. The area has some erosion such that a couple feet of the survey marker pipe is exposed. Someone placed a new register book in the box. We logged in our #6 and #5 HPs for myself and wife respectively. We have 4 apiece in the past month as we start into this quest. The view from the top on our summit day was awesome. The weather was crisp and clear at 55F and a10 mph wind. We read lots of warnings about the prairie rattlers but did not see any on our trip. We did locate the area of the snake den under the summit from a YouTube video but it had been collapsed. We searched around but we're unable to spot any more dens. The return trip down was easy to follow as the trail is an easy to spot white path. This was a great adventure and road trip into North Dakota. The timing was perfect as the first snowfall is imminent. Recommend bringing mosquito repellant for spring and summer treks. Also, if there has been a lot of rain, the trail will probably be very slippery and messy in spots since a lot of the trail is white clay. Recommend bringing an extra pair of shoes for the drive home if the trails are muddy. Safe climbing!

iowahawk43 - Oct 25, 2013 10:06 pm - Hasn't voted

One Main Trail

Reached this highpoint in October 2013. Here is some input. * White soil is slippery when wet, brown soil is a much better grip * It is called White Butte, but if you head to the highpoint you had better think brown over white when offered a choice * Some instructions suggest right when at a fork, ravine, etc. I recommend you think LEFT when ascending. The best advice is the fence line. You can't literally walk within reach of the fence the entire way up, but you should error in the direction of the fence. * More on the trail up...after the gate you walk a few yards along the fence, trail and a thin drainage ditch to the base of the bluffs. Think left. We set up a few small cairns to assist but we see those being knocked over by wind, rain, snow or cows. * Even more on the trail...it is VERY obvious trail. We went up the wrong ravine and the trails we convinced ourselves was correct were more like animal trails - the kind you have so sort of look at sideways to convince yourself it is indeed a trail. Seriously, the proper trail is 100% obvious trail so move towards the fence line when in doubt. * Stunted trees. If it is possible to follow directions and be wrong, we did it. We found "stunted trees" - about 10 in a grouping. The writer meant the larger group, a grove of maybe 50-70 trees. The main trail is by these, so no matter how you scramble up to the top, make your way towards these make grove of stunted trees. Again, in the direction of the fence line until you hit a trail that makes you KNOW you are on a real trail. * We crossed the grass area after passing by the 3 stunted trees and following an animal trail. Once we could see both sides, the higher peak is the correct one. Where we stood it was...wait for it...in the direction of the fence line we followed from the parking area! If you try to go the direction of anything white, it is likely the wrong direction. SUMMARY: Think left and brown on the way up. Hope this helps.

Colin

Colin - Aug 11, 2015 5:57 pm - Voted 9/10

Re: One Main Trail

I visited on 7/31/15. My experience with the trail matched IowaHawk's. The route was obvious and when in doubt I stayed to the left. I stepped over an old, beaten down barbed wire fence when I was on the plateau below the summit. I don't think I was tresspassing, however, as it cut across the path and the obvious route to the summit. I concur with the poster who recommended long pants. The brush is quite thick in places.

HasseFamily - Apr 9, 2015 9:40 pm - Hasn't voted

Zumwalt's Book led us astray

This was a spring trip to knock off several highpoints. We used the old Zumwalt book and ended up quite a bit west of the standard route but had fun finding a route up the butte. Flushed a huge jackrabbit near the top and hunted for rocks at the base of the butte. The warm sun and cool breeze made it the perfect day.

moneal

moneal - Aug 26, 2018 3:24 pm - Hasn't voted

Update August 2018

It looks like the Highpointers have been here and done some updating. Google Maps takes you right there. Coming from Bowman we came up north on US-85. Turned right on 74th St (dirt). Turned left on 140th Ave (dirt) and then turned left to White Butte. Roads were good dirt and passable by any vehicle There is a sign now at the end of the road indicating to park there as opposed to the farm house. The mailbox is gone and now there is a red post for you to give your donation. No amount is suggested The trail is super easy to follow. Only item of interest is when you get to just below the grove of trees there is a right/left decision. Either way gets you there but the right branch is what should be the actual trail

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Children

Children

Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.