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.
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.
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 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 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 area. Do not drive up the access road to the abandoned farmhouse or the trailhead gate.