For frequenters of northbound I-5 in NorCal, imposing Black Butte is nearly as iconic as its next-door-neighbor Mt. Shasta. Characterized as a “cluster of overlapping dacite lava domes in a butte”, the feature is more or less a 6,334-foot pile of rock.
From a distance, it may seem that summiting the steeply rising butte requires at least climbing gear if not a death wish. Surprisingly, however, a 2.5-mile moderate trail takes hikers to its apex. Atop Black Butte, hikers can take in stunning views of landmarks in NorCal and Southern Oregon including Mt. Shasta, Lassen Peak, Crater Peak, Burney Mountain, Mt. Eddy and many more.
Distance: 5.2 miles
The trailhead commences from a large bulge on the north side of the butte. At the start, you’re surrounded by numerous tree species including ponderosa pines, incense cedars, white firs and Douglas firs.
Immediately, the trail begins to climb at a moderate grade and winds to the West. The initial section of the path ascends through trees for a short time until it reaches a clearing where hikers can take in incredible views of Mt. Shasta as well as several other notable peaks to the North.
Upon reaching the clearing, the trail levels out a bit. The route continues West to a switchback. Here, you’ll notice a hidden canyon that you must parallel on your way up to the summit. As you head East via the switchback, watch your footing as there are sections of loose rock. You may even have to jump from large rock to large rock in order to pass. As the path winds further to the East, the summit comes into view.
As the trail climbs further, you reach a retaining net and a segment of more loose rock. A little past the net lies another switchback. Soon, the path approaches another section of unstable rock held back by a retaining net. Use caution while hiking this area.
Five more closely situated switchbacks lie ahead, which take you very close to the summit. Past the switchbacks, scramble up the last 20 feet of so of loose rock to the summit. Take in some incredible views of NorCal and Southern Oregon.
Directions to trailhead: From the beginning of the Everitt Memorial Highway, drive north for 2.1 miles to the signed left turn onto a dirt road. The sign indicates the Black Butte Trail. Just past this point, the Everitt Memorial Highway makes a sharp right turn and begins to climb up Mount Shasta. If you reach this turn, you have gone too far.
Once on the dirt road, it makes a right hand turn after 100 yards. The road is easily passable but it is bumpy. Though there are side roads, the route is obvious the rest of the way to the trailhead. Follow the obvious path. It does make a left turn after mile and a right turn after another 0.4 miles. Turn left again after 0.8 miles. A short distance from here the road comes to a junction with numerous roads. Follow the obvious road, staying left. The route then makes a quick climb up to the trailhead parking area.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine