Granite Butte is a mountain located in the Southern Wallowa range. As the name suggests it is a large chunk of granite with a large north face.
Granite Butte is peak #47 on the Howbert List of Oregon's 100 highest peaks.
*I will note in in advance that trails in the Eagle Cap wilderness are often overgrown or difficult to stay on. The trails below may be maintained at some point in the future, but you should be prepared to navigate on your own with a map at any point along the trip. Game trails are numerous above 6,000 feet and often mimic the real trail.
**The washout bridges have been replaced and Buck Creek is accessible.
Take I-84 to La Grande, Oregon. Turn East on exit 265 onto Highway 203 and head to Union, Oregon (11.3 miles). The highway turns as it enters Union. Head south through Union to E Beakman St. and take a left.
At this point Granite Butte can be climbed two ways: On its own, or in a loop with China Cap (and possibly Burger Butte).
To climb Granite Butte over Mule Peak
Head 14 miles on highway 203 and look for a green fourway post sign. There will be a parking/camping area on your right. Take a left onto the FS road 77. Stay on this road for about 9.9 miles. Turn left onto FS road 600. Follow this for 3.6 miles and take a right onto FS road 650. About 400 feet up the road is a trailhead, and creek with a campsite and parking (total distance 27.4 miles). The trailhead is for trail 1912, the Sand Creek Trailhead. Follow the road/converted trail, up about 2 miles. The keep track of the signs. There will be a sign on your right noting the Sand creek trail (a brown FS sign). The trail turns off the road and climbs to the left switchbacking up to the ridge crest. Follow this trail another 1 miles as it heads up the ridge (this ridge in fact goes all the way to Mule Peak). The trail will fairly suddenly disappear as it enters an open field with drainage streams running down the mountain. There is a pile of rocks with a vertical stick demarcating a left turn. Further, there are five rocks in the ground "blocking" an apparent trail going right (by blocking the rocks are about 3 inches high so you can walk over them...as we did our first time). Turn left. Follow the trail about .25 miles until you see another pile of rocks with a vertical stick out of the ground. This is the divergence of the Sand creek trail and the Mule Peak/Granite Butte summit trail (trail 1924). Take a right and follow the switchbacks up over Mule Peak to Granite Butte. If so inclined, follow the summit trail past Granite Butte down to Sand Pass and back down the alternate trail to complete a loop. Or just go back the way you came.
We could not find trail 1912 descending the creek basin on the south side of Sandy Creek Pass. There is a significant burn area as well as much of the area was mud. Consider going back the way you came unless you want to route find your way back. We did eventually find the trail as it exits the creek basin.
To climb China Cap and Burger Butte via Burger Pass
Alternate Route: Continue on highway 203 for 11.4 miles and look for Catherine Creek Lane on your left. Take a left and head 4.2 miles (do not turn at 3.0 miles stay left on the main road) to the Buck Creek crossing i.e. FS Road 7787. Take a right and cross the creek. Follow this 3.9 miles and take a left. Go 0.3 miles, and park at the dirt parking lot.
The trail number is listed as 1944. However, it should be noted there was a major landslide on Burger Buttes northwest side (winter/spring of 2014). Supposedly the slide took part of the trail 1944 with it. So you may have to do some route finding.
Forest Road 580 (via idahomtnhigh's climber's log)
"Climbed Granite as part of a ridge loop climb around the South Fork Catherine Creek. From the end of Forest Road 580 (4X4 required) head north and cross Catherine Creek, than climb up onto Mule Peak south ridge and connect with the trail, or just keep on climbing the ridge to the lookout. This route is only 5 miles round trip and very straight forward (Class 2). Optional Class 3 loop, we followed the ridge east off of Granite and than continued on the ridge south near Olive Lake. We than dropped off of the ridge down an easy slope back to Forest Road 580. Loop is 6 miles."
The regulations for the wilderness are stated here:
Please note the permit regulation guidelines.
Allow me to note that a good map of the Wallows is essential. Not for the trails, which often disappear or don't exist, but for the terrain, and route finding purposes. Many of these trails get less than a handful of people a year, and parts of the wilderness may not get a single explorer for several years.
Camping is allowed in the wilderness, however, as above there are strict guidelines for doing so. Certain areas are being restored and are off limits for camping.
It may be worthwhile to camp in the national forest since Granite Butte is located so close to the edge of the wilderness where less restrictions are applied.
A general map:
(click on the maps for links to specific recreation opportunities)
Our group did not successfully summit Granite Butte on this trip. There was significant snow in the form of ice above 8200 feet on Granite Butte. The link on the arm between Mule Peak and Granite Butte was impassible as well with a significant cornice crossing. See pictures. If you plan to hike the trail, wait till late July at the earliest to assure that the trail is passable.