White Butte, North Dakota is located 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].
Southwestern North Dakota, with its badlands, buttes, and broad vistas is largely the result of hundreds of thousands of years of erosion. The landscape here is not glacial. It has been carved from layers of flat-lying sandstone and other materials.
White Butte and nearby Rattlesnake Butte were originally named the Chalky Buttes because of their white color. White Butte has a sandstone caprock of Oligocene age White River and Miocene age Arikaree rocks, formations that make up the landscape in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Below that can be seen the smooth, dark gray slopes of the South Heart Member of the Chadron Formation [Credit John Bluemle].
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 during foul weather through brute force alone. However, for off-season and winter ascents, gaiters, snowshoes, MICROspikes, or Yaktrax may be beneficial if you've already invested in the equipment and have it readily available.
There are discrepancies among online resources regarding the naming conventions 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 area. "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 state highways and county backroads to the general location of the trailhead parking area.
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 area. Do not drive up the access road to the abandoned farmhouse or the trailhead gate.