The trail to Stein Butte (USFS #929) is one of the classic hikes in Southern Oregon’s Upper Applegate River Valley. It was a beautiful sunny, bluebird day but so cold in the morning (18ºF) that it proved impossible to coax The LovedOne from beneath the down comforter. So I was forced to go it alone for this, the last hike of 2014. Sigh.
I settled on the Stein Butte Trail (USFS #929) because it didn’t require any tricky driving on possibly icy roads and promised big views. Sullivan (Hike #66 in his 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon (Third Edition)) calls it a “motorcycle” trail – you are allowed to ride motorcycles on it but it didn’t look as though many people do that. Otherwise it proved to be a nearly perfect hiking trail. By the time I got to the trailhead at Seattle Bar, the air temperature had reached the low 30ºFs and there it stayed.
The first 2.5 miles involved a climb on long, gentle switchbacks up through an open forest,
to the top of Elliott Creek Ridge.
The remainder of the hike was along the ridge, with sweeping views of the Red Buttes to the south in California,
and of Little Grayback Mountain and Mule Mountain to the north (site of our pre-Christmas hike).
The trail generally follows the top of the ridge,
but contours steep slopes around the larger bumps to avoid any significant ups and downs.
It’s a short hike, so the butte’s summit came into view pretty quickly,
and shortly thereafter, I was on the summit itself, eating lunch at what remains of the old lookout. From there, I had a view west toward Grayback Mountain, Big Sugarloaf Peak, and Applegate Reservoir,
with the reservoir showing the effects of its seasonal drawdown. It’s designed to fill 7 years out of 10 – 2014, thanks to the drought in California and Southern Oregon, was one of those low fill years.
To the east, I could see several peaks running north from Mount Ashland.
On the way back, I noticed that something had been clawing at a madrone – if it was a bear, it’s hopefully now a hibernating one!
A wonderful little hike (9.4 miles roundtrip; 2,400 feet of elevation gain) to end the year with!