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Outside » Outside Features

Gray Butte for the Win

A fun and beautiful excursion just outside of Redmond

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Redmond is near so many great trails that are practically begging you to come hike on them. For quick trips just outside of town, there are trails at the Crooked River Grasslands and the always-popular Smith Rock—but one gem remains a favorite getaway trip: Gray Butte, located just northeast of Terrebonne. Starting among juniper trees, the trail(s) eventually wind upward to reveal some stunning views.

Mountain views abound along the trail while hiking around Gray Butte. - ISAAC BIEHL
  • Isaac Biehl
  • Mountain views abound along the trail while hiking around Gray Butte.

There are a few different ways to take in the beauty of this area, but the quickest way to get there is to find the trailhead located at the end of Skull Hollow Campground. The gravel road is a little narrow and uneven, but don't expect anything too crazy. My girlfriend's Dodge Caliber handled it with ease. If your vehicle has low clearance, be sure to drive through with care.

At Gray Butte, located inside the Crooked River National Grassland, you can basically choose your own experience. To get there, set your map for the Gray Butte Trailhead or Skull Hollow Campground. Hike a couple miles and do some climbing to the butte, or turn back for a shorter day. Or, hike around the whole base of the butte and turn it into an over 6-mile loop. For those looking to take on a bigger trek, hike from Smith Rock to Gray Butte by using the Burma Road trail. This will get you into double-digit miles—close to a 13-mile hike, according to the All Trails app. You could even cap it off by camping in Skull Hollow if you're looking to make a weekend out of it.

With all of the options for how to travel the trail and connections to other beautiful areas, the system here makes it great for people of all skill levels. Simply hiking to the butte from the Skull Hollow trail is perfect for beginners, but there are plenty of ways to make it more challenging.

The hiking trails around Gray Butte get the top four paws-up rating. - ISAAC BIEHL
  • Isaac Biehl
  • The hiking trails around Gray Butte get the top four paws-up rating.

This area is a draw for hiking, running and biking—all of which I saw happening while out on the trail. We brought the dog along and he absolutely loved it out there. If you do plan to bring your furry friend, be mindful of bikers or people on horseback. While we saw a few groups of bikers, the trail never felt busy or overcrowded. The land is so vast out there that you're able to really feel the peace of nature.

If you're worried about conditions, the trail can get a little muddy if it follows some rain, but on a perfect summer day you shouldn't have to worry about it at all—though sandy soil does pose its own issues, including some loose footing from time to time. Once you make it out of the first mile and a half or so from the Skull Hollow trailhead, you'll be out of tree cover for the majority of the hike so be sure to bring plenty of water as it will get pretty hot during the summer. And sunscreen? A must.

Along the way are wildflowers and tremendous mountain views. Right now, the paintbrush and lupine are making quite a show. Plus, it's like the whole trail is one giant viewpoint. Gray Butte is truly a spot where you feel like you're farther out from civilization than you are, but in reality a quick 17-mile drive will get you back into the city. It's the perfect day trip from Redmond.

To access the Gray Butte trailhead at Skull Hollow Campground, you'll drive through the campground for about 2 miles. The trailhead will be on the left side of the road with a decent-sized area for parking.

About The Author

Isaac Biehl

Isaac is living proof that "Iowa Nice" is actually a thing. A journalism graduate from Iowa State University, he regularly writes about music, the outdoors and the arts/culture scene. Isaac loves the Trail Blazers, backpacking and a good IPA. He plans to one day win Survivor. Your move, Jeff Probst...

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