Back to Clear Lake Butte

Type: 41′ tower with R-6 cabin
Status: Staffed in summer, rental in winter
Elevation: 4,458 feet
Visited: February 7-9, 2016

In March 2014 my sister and I made our first lookout excursion together, staying at Clear Lake Butte for one night. We had a great time, although we were socked in with no views. In March 2015 we stayed at the Fivemile Butte lookout where we had clear skies and bare ground thanks to the super mild and dry winter.

This year we decided to return to Clear Lake Butte. We parked at Skyline Sno Park, donned our packs (mine was 42 pounds!), and headed out. The snow was old and packed down and we didn’t even need our snowshoes. We strapped them to our packs and just walked in our boots. It took us two hours and 20 minutes to hike from the sno park up to the lookout. This is snowmobile country and we were passed by plenty of them along the way, inhaling the exhaust fumes long after the machines had passed us. Yuck.


When we arrived at the lookout it was nothing but clear blue skies above us.

Clear Lake Butte Lookout

we were greeted with jaw-dropping views of Mt. Hood and Clear Lake to the north.

Mt. Hood and Clear Lake

And Mt. Jefferson to the south:

Mt. Jefferson

Timothy Lake was sprawled out below us to the west:

Timothy Lake

We sat out on the catwalk, soaking up the sunshine. Gray jays paid us a visit, having clearly been fed by past visitors who didn’t know better.

Gray jay

Gray jay

Previous renters had created a snow cave:

Inside the snow cave

As the sun started to go down and it got chillier, we retreated back inside and enjoyed the views from there.

Framed mountain

And then watched the sunset:

Timothy Lake Sunset

Mt. Hood alpenglow

The stars that night were amazing.

So many stars

Starry skies

We drank wine and whiskey, played games (discovered a new-to-us game called Farkel!), and then turned in for the night.

We woke to brilliant clear skies:

Cozy bed

Lookout sunrise

Mt. Hood

Panorama to the west:

West panorama

To the north:

North panorama

To the east and south:

East panorama

Deb chopped some wood:

Wood chopper

And hauled it up the tower via the handy pulley:


Collecting snow, melting it, then filtering it was a constant activity:

Snow melting

In the afternoon we went out for a little trek. Short of hiking all the way back down the mountain, there aren’t many places to go. We explored down a spur road.

Snowy road

Mountain view

Then we dropped down and went cross-country to meet up with another spur. Shouldn’t have left our snowshoes back at the lookout!

Snow walk

Sunshine filtering through the trees:

Tree shadows

Back at the lookout we napped, snacked, and relaxed. What a rough life! Sunset that night:

On top of the world

Once again, the stars were amazing. This is looking south. Because it’s a wide-angle lens Mt. Jefferson is just a little bump in the center. I think the city glow on the left is from Bend and the glow on the right is from Salem.

Milky Way

The lookout and the stars.

Stars and the lookout

Sunrise the next morning was lovely, thanks to a layer of clouds that had settled into the valleys below us.


Sunrise at the lookout

Mt. Jefferson

I always enjoy reading past logbook entries while I drink my morning tea.

Glorious morning

Good times!

Fun times!

After hiking back out to the sno park we weren’t ready to go home yet so we hung out at Timberline Lodge for the afternoon. We stayed for sunset, which was beautiful.

Timberline sunset

Pink skies

Looking south, that’s the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson. Clear Lake Butte is the second bump in the foreground.

Timberline Lodge view

We had a great time! We were incredibly lucky to have such beautiful weather.

If you go:

  • It’s a 3.5 mile trek from the Skyline Sno Park to the lookout. If it’s early in the season or late in the season there might be no snow in which case you can drive all the way up.
  • Expect plenty of visits from snowmobilers on weekends. If you don’t want them to bother you, just close and latch the catwalk door.
  • Two years ago the lock was on the door instead of the catwalk hatch. This time the latch on the door was completely gone and there was just a combination lock on the hatch.
  • This lookout has a refrigerator, although it is quite noisy. Also, it stopped working about halfway through our visit, so we had to put our veggies outside in the shade.
  • The Forest Service keeps the woodshed stocked with lots of seasoned firewood. The tower has a pulley system for getting the wood up to the top.
  • Unlike some lookout locations there are no good ways to go do brief explorations on foot during your visit. You pretty much have to hike two miles down the mountain (the way you came up) and then hike around to Clear Lake or Little Crater Lake or wherever.