Pelican Butte is a broad, high mountain to the north of Mount McLoughlin
in southern Oregon. It is a shield volcano (not active), with nearly perfect symmetry, except for glacial cirques on the northeast slopes of the mountain. It is seldom climbed, mainly because of the nearby peaks of McLoughlin and those of the Mountain Lakes Wilderness. However, it is a great cross-country ski ascent, and the best routes for skiing are on the northwest and northeast slopes (see map below). Unfortunately, there is a proposal to build a ski area on the mountain, but it is probably (hopefully) not going to occur. For people who like downhill skiing, however, you can carry skiis or snowboards up the peak and ski down in the winter. The views south to Mount McLoughlin and the view north to Crater Lake National Park alone recommend this climb. There is a lookout on the panoramic summit that is staffed in the summer.
Access from the Westside Road starts from Malone Spring and follows old logging roads and trails up the east flank to the summit, although these are no longer shown on Forest Service maps. This approach is for the the Northeast Bowls and Northeast Ridge routes (see routes).
Access to the western flank begins with 9.5 miles of good gravel road (FSR 3651) from Highway 140, leading to the Pelican Butte road which services a lookout tower on the summit. These final 4.5 miles (above 6000 ft) are passable only to high-clearance 4WD vehicles. In spring, those with suitable vehicles could attempt to drive the summit road to snowline, although it is narrow and turning around would be difficult. Others should simply park beside the gravel road and hike the melted out sections of the summit road until snowline is reached.
No permits are required to park near Pelican Butte, or to climb the mountain.
When To Climb
The most common time to climb Pelican Butte is in the winter, when it is either snow-shoed or skied. It is a fairly easy ascent in summer, requiring only stamina. There is only a few steep portions of the mountain: the glacial cirques on the northeast (they are commonly skied down in winter).
Camping is allowed on the mountain, but fires are prohibited in the summer and fall (due to wildfire danger). There are no campsites on the mountain, so you will have to provide your own water.