Abandoned fire tower offers spectacular views

Hike, drive to Southern Oregon's Pelican Butte




Quick Facts

Pelican Butte is a steep-sided dormant shield volcano in the Cascade Range of Southern Oregon. It is located 28 miles due south of Crater Lake and 12 miles northeast of Mount McLoughlin.

Elevation: 8,038 feet (2,450 m).

Mountain range: Cascade Range.

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — If you feel the need to get above the fray, Pelican Butte in the Southern Cascades is just the place.

Pelican Butte has an abandoned fire lookout tower that sits at 8,038 feet above sea level. Its 360-degree views take in Mt. McLoughlin, Fourmile Lake, Skylakes Wilderness area, Lake of the Woods, the entire Upper Klamath Basin and, if you look to the north, you can see the raised, outlined walls of Crater Lake.

It's a spectacular view. Bring binoculars, too. That will help pick out some of the more familiar details.

The site is a great place to share a lunch with the family or just get away from it all. Be a bit cautious on top, as one side drops off quickly to the valley floor and is covered in shale rock. There are survey markers on top so you can mark the spot on your GPS tracker.

You can drive right to the lookout if you so choose. My advice is to have a high-centered four-wheel drive if you do. And, make sure your tires are in good shape as some of the rocks on the unmaintained road are sharp. The rocks can tear into a radial tire, no problem. It's tough on your brakes coming back down, too.

A better way is to take an ATV from the trailhead. It's a perfect set of switchbacks that are not too steep and are safe enough for the entire family.

Better yet, hike up the switchbacks. It's about a four-mile hoof. Or ride a mountain bike in. The ride down can be fast and furious.

Pelican Butte is about 14 miles of dirt road off Highway 140 west of Klamath Falls and the Rocky Point turnoff. Take the Cold Springs Road turnoff to your right if you're coming from the east. Travel about 10 to 12 miles on a well-maintained gravel road to the turnoff to the right. (Don't take the "Old Pelican Butte" road turnoff about eight miles in, but the next one).

The switchback road to the lookout is not maintained for normal car traffic.

Travel at your own risk. Bring a bucket and shovel, as always.