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Bonney Butte Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Sharp-shinned hawk on Bonney Butte (bobcat)
Red-tailed hawk mugging on Bonney Butte (pdxgene)
Bonney Butte Fire Lookout interpretive sign (bobcat)
Golden-mantled ground squirrel begging atop Bonney Butte (bobcat)
HawkWatch volunteers scoping out raptors on Bonney Butte (bobcat)
  • Start point: Bonney Butte TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Bonney Butte
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 220 feet
  • High Point: 5,580 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Summer through Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No, except on weekends in September and October



The main reason to drive to the base of Bonney Butte is when HawkWatch International has volunteers at the top of Bonney Butte doing raptor counts and banding during the fall migration in September and October. The road in to Bonney Butte is notoriously rocky and low clearance cars will have a hard time. Also, if you want more of a hike, begin at the Wamic Road Trailhead or the Boulder Lake Trailhead.

Find the forest road across from the trailhead, and head up a closed green gate with a Road Closed sign on it. There’s a junction: go right to a restroom and the volunteer campground; keep straight for the Observation and Birding Site. This side of the butte supports a dry forest of lodgepole pine, western white pine, Douglas-fir, noble fir, and mountain hemlock. There are views back to Badger Butte, Bonney Meadows and Echo Point and, at an opening, down a kinnikinnick slope to the White River valley, Mount Jefferson, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters. Up near the crest of the ridge, subalpine fir joins the forest mix. The road bends right on a fairly rocky tread and reaches the old lookout site. On September and October weekends, master birders will be plying their craft. You can look at the tally sheets and the HawkWatch information signs. A range of raptors, from golden eagles, vultures, and red-tailed hawks to smaller Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks may be taking advantage of ridgetop updrafts to wind their way south using the long ridgelines to the east of Mount Hood as a pathway. A plastic owl sits in a tree as a lure. The banding of raptors who come down to live pigeon lures is done from a hide up and over a hump in the ridge. They are caught using mist nets and sometimes a naturalist will bring back a bird that has been banded for observers at the lookout site to examine. As the raptors keep coming, the birders call out their IDs "Juvenile female sharpie at 11 o'clock!", sometimes accompanied by the alarm calls of the local ground squirrels, who are both stressed and intensely conflicted at this time - their desire for handouts from the humans who crowd their summit about equally matched with their fears of being snatched up by a major predator. In addition to the bird identification signs here, there is a panel detailing the history of the Bonney Butte Lookout (deactivated 1964).

An excellent short adjunct hike for families after spending time at the top of the Butte would be to walk or drive 0.3 miles down FR 4891 to the turn off for the Bonney Meadows Forest Camp. From the campground itself, you can pick up trails to loop around Bonney Meadows to reach FR 4891 farther south. Then walk back, using the road, to your car.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Keep dogs tied up at the raptor watching site


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt. Wilson, OR #494
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Barlow Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • Oregon Nature Weekends by Jim Yuskavitch

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.