Distance: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 440 feet
Best Time to Go: Winter-Spring
About this Hike
From a distance, Pelican Butte appears to be a dark hill sprawled across the horizon, with white scrapes of snow at its peak. But Pelican Butte isn’t a hill, or even a butte—it’s actually a shield volcano, whose last eruption occurred nearly 300,000 years ago. Today, Pelican Butte lies dormant and pristine, and its surrounding forests and meadows have been left untouched.
Located at the southern fringes of the Cascades, Pelican Butte sits 28 miles south of Crater Lake National Park and 12 miles northeast of Mt. McLoughlin. To get there, follow Highway 140 onto West Side Rd., and take the forest service roads to the west.
The landscape around Pelican Butte is varied. Near the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, bald eagles soar above old-growth forests of Douglas-fir and Ponderosa Pine. The mountain's higher elevation rocky cliffs are graced by lovely Lake Francis, and in the lower elevations by spacious Bid Meadows that spans just below the western flank. Near Pelican Butte's 8,036 foot summit, Clark nutcrackers and gray-jays daringly observe passersby from the branches of western white pine - an ever-increasingly endangered tree species that still persists here.
This is the type of place where you could walk for days without seeing another human. You could spend the entire day wandering, plucking ripe salal and huckleberries until your fingers were stained purple. Then you could enjoy their sweet-sour taste as you walked, breathing in the dry scent of the rocky soil. At night, you could watch the Milky Way slowly unveil itself from behind ribbons of darkness. And then, maybe—maybe—you could hear the call of a wolf, long and clear, rigid and unending, like unspoiled water pulled from a stream.