Simply Nahala

Writer. Photographer. Soul Traveler.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Bessie Butte

Central Oregon is a popular outdoor destination with a reputation for being dog friendly. The high desert playground is situated on the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range. The climate is primarily arid with plenty of sunny days. Snow in the winter and dry hot days in the summer. Truly an outdoor paradise with so many fun things to do!

Deschutes County is the most cave-rich county in the state with a vast network of lava tubes and buttes that dot the landscape. Bessie Butte, located southeast of Bend, Oregon is not a popular tourist attraction but well-known among locals. With a gradual 3/4 mile hike to the top and 500 foot elevation gain, it's a quick hike and a great place to let your dogs run free.

The area surrounding the cinder cone was ravaged by wild fire in 2003 and 2007, so the flora and fauna is rejuvenating. Though many of the ponderosa pines have been scorched, there is still much beauty to see. While traversing up old Bessie, there are thriving chartreuse manzanita, interesting scorched tree stumps as well as thousands of pine seedlings that have been planted over the years, not to mention the amazing view of the area once you summit. It's a fantastic place to watch a sunrise or sunset and a good alternative to the very popular Pilot Butte.

While in the vicinity, you may also want to do some underground exploring in Boyd Cave. The lava tube stays a steady 40 degrees, but feels much colder in the winter. Dress warm and don't forget a flashlight or headlamp with back up lights. The 1.1 mile in-and-back trail is flat for the most part, but you will have to climb over rocks and crouch through several sections. At the very end of the trail, there is a small space to crawl through, but closed beyond that section. It's a bit creepy in there and would not recommend this excursion if you are claustrophobic.

Getting to Bessie Butte and Boyd Cave:  Head south on U.S. 97. Take exit 143 Baker Road/Knott Road. Turn left on Knott Road for 1.5 miles, then turn right on China Hat Road for about 4.5 miles. Turn right on Forest Road 1810. Parking for Bessie Butte is at the base of the trail head. No pass or permit required. To get to Boyd Cave from Bessie Butte, turn right on China Hat Road for 3.6 miles. Turn left onto the dirt road at FS242. Follow the road until you see a small wire cage, which is the entrance to the cave.

Happy Exploring!

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