As if Bend, Oregon doesn't already have enough awesomeness going on – sunshine, mountains, rivers, and breweries – it also boasts a wonderful little hump of cinder known as Pilot Butte on the east end of town. Protected as an Oregon State Park, Pilot Butte sports three trails inside its boundaries, and makes for a perfect close-in destination for hikers of all ages to come out and explore.
Our route takes the main route to the top: a dirt trail that spirals counter-clockwise up Pilot Butte with stops along the way where benches provide a variety of views of Central Oregon. It should be mentioned that this path parallels a paved road to the top, but we highly recommend hiking as the trail is short and easily managed.
Begin at the trailhead at the south end of the parking lot. After 100 yards, stay right at the junction and begin heading uphill through juniper and sage, away from the pavement. Ignore signs for the "Nature Trail" and continue on the wide path upwards and onwards. At 0.5 miles, the trail wraps to the west side of the butte and (on a clear day) you'll begin to start seeing the Cascades to your right. Reach the south side of the butte at 0.75 miles and make your final push to the top.
Once on the summit (4,142'), Pilot Butte offers a 360-degree view of the entirety of central Oregon. From the Ochoco’s to the Sisters and Mt Hood to Paulina Crater, there’s a lot to take in. Use the peak identifier in the center of the observation area to find your bearings, and read about the history of the region on the placards surrounding the edge.
Looking for more in-park mileage? Head down the butte via the road and hop onto the Nature Trail (heading north right before the gate). The path circles around the butte and will drop you back onto the main trail near your original starting point.
Permits & Tips
No permits required. Bathrooms and drinking fountains are available at the top and the bottom of Pilot Butte, but bring your own water as the trail is exposed and hot. The path is dusty and not always well packed – for more stable footing, take a left at the first fork after the trailhead and walk up the road which runs parallel to the trail. Bikes not allowed on trail. Park open year-round, but typically closes to car traffic from Nov. – April.
How to get there
From Highway 20/Greenwood Ave on the east side of Bend, Oregon, head north onto NE Azure Drive for 0.10 miles. Turn left onto NE Savannah Drive, and after just a few hundred feet, turn left onto NE Linnea Drive. Linnea Drive ends at the parking lot, just a quarter-mile further.