It is probably easier to find a view of the Cascade Mountains than trip over your own feet. But finding a full panoramic view—360 degrees and spinning—is one of the most rewarding finds in Central Oregon. What better way to welcome summer than taking in the whole range after hiking or biking up both of these two buttes. The view they deliver is sure to be butte-tiful.
A tourist favorite, the hike to the top of Black Butte is a moderate hike looping around the volcanic cone that ends at two fire lookouts whose views extend to see the full expanse of Central Oregon. The narrow 3.6-mile loop snakes between the old-growth ponderosa pine. To avoid other hikers and catch the most magical sights, head out in time to catch the wild and colorful lights of the sunrise or sunset.
Drive Highway 22 west of Sisters 5.5 miles (or east of Santiam Pass 13.5 miles) to Indian Ford Campground, near milepost 95. Turn north onto paved Green Ridge Road 11. After 3.8 miles, turn left onto gravel Road 1110 for 5.1 miles to a parking area at the road's end. The trail is open July-October and requires a Northwest Forest Pass, which you can purchase at the trailhead for $5 a day.
Follow the trail that is much like the swirl of a soft serve ice cream around the cinder cone to see the sweet treat of a panorama of Bend and, of course, the snowcapped mountains. Pick one of three different trails leading to the summit that wind through juniper and sage, and stop at picnic areas or play grounds on your way to the lookout site. Originally used as a landmark that guided wagon train immigrants who sought a safe crossing of the Deschutes River, Pilot Butte, and the tasty Pilot Butte Drive-In below, are longtime local favorites. If you haven't been in a while, you are long overdue for a trip.
Head out to the trailhead year-round along Greenwood on the east side of Bend to the foot of Pilot Butte. Hikers, bikers and cars are allowed on portions of the cone.