Round Butte Trail

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 7.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 250’
Trailhead Elevation: 5,650’
Best Season: June through September
Driving Access: High-clearance vehicle,
   once access road is snow-free and dry

Plus Points
• A ridge hike to a promontory with panoramic vistas of the Wenaha River watershed
• Trail is cow-free and entirely within the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Area
• A diversity of open, rocky "balds" and thick fir forests on the route along the ridge
• Round Butte is prime summer elk habitat, with sightings possible if one is stealthy
• Wildflowers into July, including penstemon, paintbrush, bush lupine and soapwort
• Arguably one of finest view hikes in the entire Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness

Minus Points
• An hour-long, 7.5-mile drive over narrow, rocky access road, with deep ruts in spots
• Afternoon thunderstorms can present a lightning hazard on exposed ridges

Download (PDF, 740 KB): Photos of Round Butte Trail
Download (PDF, 826 KB): Topo Map for Round Butte Trail
Download (GPX, 1 KB): GPS Points for Round Butte Trail
Download (PDF, 802 KB): Road Map for Round Butte Trail

Trail Notes
Map of Round Butte Trail
For the first mile, the trail contours southeast along the side of a long ridge, through subalpine firs on the crest and big douglas firs on the slopes. The trail is well-built on a good grade and is easy walking all the way to Round Butte. For the second mile, the trail generally follows the open crest of the ridge, through rocky balds with no trees or shrubs, but with summer wildflowers in profusion. Look for yellow buckwheat, white soapwort, mountain balm and several penstemons (blue to purple). In the shady, moister wooded sections of trail, look for yellow arnica, purple horsemint and red paintbrush.

At 2.2 miles (GPS Point 1), one reaches a trail junction and the route to Round Butte bears left (south) on the less-used fork. For the next mile past the junction, the trail traverses long open flats and then deep fir forests as one approaches the northwest flank of Round Butte. At 3.1 miles (GPS Point 2), when the trail is almost past the butte and the ridge line begins to narrow, the route leaves the main trail and follows game trails cross-country northeast up a ridge to the summit of Round Butte (GPS Point 3).

If one approaches the top of the butte quietly and stealthily, there's a chance to see a large herd of elk that frequents the summit. If you don't spot the elk, you can certainly see their beds, dust baths and tracks all around the butte top. Also, there are spectacular, 360 degree views over the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, including Milk Creek and the South Fork Wenaha on the west, and Sawtooth Ridge and the North Fork Wenaha to the east. On a clear day, one has long views of the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains on the southeast horizon. After a lunch and rest, return as you came.

Road to Trailhead
From Hwy 12 in the town of Dayton, WA, turn south on 4th Street, then drive 23.2 miles up the North Fork Touchet River canyon, past the Bluewood Ski Area, to a road junction. This road is paved to the ski area and becomes Road 64 at the Forest boundary. At the road junction, go 0.3 miles straight ahead to a signed turnoff for Table Rock Lookout on the left. Turn south on this road (Kendall Skyline Road, a continuation of Road 64). Drive 7.5 miles south on Road 64, past the Table Rock Lookout, to Road 450, which branches left on a big curve. Follow Road 450 for 0.3 miles to the trailhead at Indian Camp.

NOTE: The 7.5 miles of Road 64 past the road junction is narrow, rocky and deeply rutted in spots — so it's only passable by high-clearance vehicles, and only when dry. Expect this drive to take over an hour. Also, the final 200 yards of Road 450 down into Indian Camp is deeply rutted as well, so one may wish to park along Road 450 and walk the final 0.1 miles to the trailhead.

Camping Options
The only developed campground in the area is the Godman Campground on Forest Road 46, about 18 miles and a two hour drive east of the trailhead. On a forested bench above the road, there are 8 campsites for tents or small camping trailers (say up to 16') and a vault toilet, but no drinking water. Campsites are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis from mid-June to late October, depending on snow conditions.

If self-contained, with one's own water and sanitation, there are dispersed camping sites closer to the trailhead, for example at Burnt Flat Corral off Road 46 on Road 420, and along Road 46 from its junction with Road 64 to Burnt Flat Corral. These sites are on short spur roads leading off Road 46 and consist mostly of pullouts in the trees, with spots for both tent and small trailer campers.

Finally, for tent campers only, there are dispersed sites at the Indian Camp trailhead, though this is a primitive camping area with no toilet, water or any other facilities. As mentioned, Road 450 down into Indian Camp is deeply rutted, requiring a high-clearance vehicle, and 4-wheel drive is good backup if driving all the way to the camp.

Agency Contact: Umatilla National Forest, Pomeroy District, (509) 843-1891

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local public land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 11/21/13