Pilot Butte (Oregon)

Coordinates: 44°03′38″N 121°17′00″W / 44.060540764°N 121.283235542°W / 44.060540764; -121.283235542
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Pilot Butte
Highest point
Elevation4,142 ft (1,262 m) NAVD 88[1]
Prominence480 ft (150 m) Edit this on Wikidata
Coordinates44°03′38″N 121°17′00″W / 44.060540764°N 121.283235542°W / 44.060540764; -121.283235542[1]
Pilot Butte is located in Bend OR
Pilot Butte
Pilot Butte
Pilot Butte is located in Oregon
Pilot Butte
Pilot Butte
Pilot Butte (Oregon)
Parent rangeCascades
Topo mapUSGS Bend
Age of rockLess than 780,000 years[2]
Mountain typeCinder cone
Volcanic arcCascade Volcanic Arc
Easiest routeRoad

Pilot Butte is a lava dome that was created from an extinct volcano located in Bend, Oregon. It is a cinder cone butte which rises nearly 500 feet (150 m) above the surrounding plains. Bend is one of six cities in the United States to have a volcano within its boundaries. The other examples are Mount Tabor in Portland, Oregon, Jackson Volcano in Jackson, Mississippi, Diamond Head in Honolulu, Glassford Hill in Prescott Valley and Pilot Knob in Austin, Texas.

The 114.22-acre (46.22-hectare) Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint, presented as a gift to the State of Oregon in 1928, is a Bend icon. Pilot Butte itself is a popular hiking destination with two trails to the summit, each gaining about 490 feet (150 m) in elevation. There is also a 1.8-mile (2.9 km) trail around the base of the butte. A scenic road also winds up and around the cone. In 2018, the park was the most visited Oregon state park east of the Cascade Mountains. From the top, the entire city of Bend is visible, as well as several major Cascade peaks. Most prominent are the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mount Bachelor, which are located about 20 miles (32 km) to the west. The City of Bend launches Fourth of July fireworks from Pilot Butte each year.[3]


Pilot Butte is located in Deschutes County, Oregon. It sits at the eastern edge of the city of Bend.[4] The Geographic Names Information System database lists its summit elevation as 4,141 feet (1,262 m);[5] the National Geodetic Survey lists its elevation as 4,142 feet (1,262 m).[1]


Pilot Butte is a Pleistocene cinder cone volcano.[6][7]

The exact age of Pilot Butte is unknown.[8] The rock has normal magnetic polarity, suggesting that it was laid down after the most recent geomagnetic reversal about 780,000 years ago.[8][9] The butte's light-colored soil contains some ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama (which formed Crater Lake).[10]

During the late Pleistocene, eruptions at Newberry Volcano produced voluminous basalt lava flows that extended into the area now occupied by Bend and Redmond. About 78,000 years ago, similar eruptive activity formed lava flows that surrounded Pilot Butte and filled the Deschutes riverbed, altering the course of the river by redirecting it to form a new channel to the west. The interior of these lava flows can be explored at Lava River Cave.[6]

Lava deposited by Pilot Butte has an escarpment of more than 66 feet (20 m).[8] Pleistocene activity produced highly porphyritic lava with 10 to 15 percent plagioclase phenocrysts reaching diameters of up to 0.20 inches (5 mm). The lava is composed of 53.5 percent silica and 20 percent aluminum oxide.[9] The volcano's lower southwest flank is covered with white, rhyolitic tephra,[8] which is similar in composition to tephra found at Tumalo Creek;[9] Sherrod et al. (2004) attribute the Tumalo Creek pumice to Pilot Butte.[11] The pumice deposit at Tumalo Creek has a thickness of at least 6.6 feet (2 m) with lapilli reaching up to 0.23 feet (7 cm) in length.[11] White lapilli have phenocrysts of plagioclase and clinopyroxene ranging from 0.039 to 0.039 inches (1 to 1 mm). Darker lapilli are mostly aphyric.[11]

Pilot Butte is extinct, not having erupted for several hundred thousand years.[10]


The most common tree on Pilot Butte is Western juniper, which is sometimes parasitized by witches' broom mistletoe. Also abundant are sagebrush and the similar plants bitterbrush and rabbitbrush. The invasive species cheatgrass is likely the most common grass on the butte. Wildflowers that appear include sand lily, rock cress, penstemon, paintbrush, buckwheat, yarrow, blazing star, mariposa lily, lupine, and monkeyflower. Ponderosa pine and red currant can also be found. Birds and deer feed on some of the plants, and some animals use snags as shelter.[10]


Pilot Butte has been a landmark in the Bend area for many years, including for the Farewell Bend Park campground for travelers crossing the Deschutes River. It was also historically known as Red Butte, though this name is no longer used. The property encompassing the lava dome and its summit park were donated to the state of Oregon by F. R. Welles, Kempster B. Miller, and Charles A. Brown in memory of their business associate Terrence Hardinton Foley in September of 1928.[4] Foley was the leader of the local Elks lodge until his death in a 1926 automobile accident, and the summit park has a memorial tablet dedicated to him.[12]

Pilot Butte was named in 1851 by Thomas Clark, leader of the first party of European settlers to camp on the future site of Bend. The Clark wagon train approached the area from the east after recovering from the Clark massacre.

In 1983, a drive-in hamburger restaurant called Pilot Butte Drive-In was opened next to the butte on Greenwood Avenue. It remained open until 2020, when it was closed in response to COVID-19 lockdowns.[13] The property was sold and later reopened as a pizza, beer, and poker establishment,[14] known as the Pilot Butte Taproom or the Bend Poker Room.[15]

A National Geodetic Survey station sits at the top of the volcano about 1 mile (1.6 km) east of Bend. It sits in the center of a traffic circle and was placed in 1932. It can be reached from traveling east on U.S. Route 20 and following a winding paved road to the highest point on the volcano.[1]


A road extends to the top of the summit, which is accessible by car[4] during daylight hours, although it closes during the winter season.[10] Several hiking trails traverse the volcano, all reaching the summit. Other volcanoes in the Cascades including the Three Sisters, Black Butte, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Hood can be seen from Pilot Butte's summit.[7] In 2010, a 1.8-mile (2.9 km) trail was constructed around the base of the butte.[16]

Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint includes more than 7 miles (11 km) of trails on the volcano.[10] The park had 949,968 annual visits in 2018, making it the most visited Oregon State Park east of the Cascade Mountains and the ninth most popular in the state.[16]



  1. ^ a b c d "Pilot Butte". NGS Data Sheet. National Geodetic Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce. Retrieved April 2, 2008.
  2. ^ "USGS Geologic Investigations Series Map I-2683, pamphlet" (PDF). U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Geological Survey. 2004. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  3. ^ "July 4th Fireworks Spectacular". Bend Oregon Visitor Bureau for Hotels, Lodging, or Restaurants. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c McArthur & McArthur 1984, p. 669.
  5. ^ "Pilot Butte". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Harris 2005, p. 169.
  7. ^ a b "Description: Pilot Butte Cinder Cone, Oregon". United States Geological Survey. January 25, 2007. Archived from the original on June 11, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  8. ^ a b c d Sherrod et al. 2004, p. 11.
  9. ^ a b c Sherrod et al. 2004, p. 22.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint" (PDF). Oregon State Parks. Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Retrieved April 30, 2023.
  11. ^ a b c Sherrod et al. 2004, p. 38.
  12. ^ "Pilot Butte Is Presented To State For Public Park". Bend Bulletin. October 1, 1928. Archived from the original on August 2, 2017. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  13. ^ Bohanan, Anyssa (April 24, 2020). "Pilot Butte Drive-In closes; beloved burger joint future in doubt". Central Oregon Daily. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  14. ^ "Pizza, beer, poker club planned for Bend's Pilot Butte Drive-In spot". Central Oregon Daily. March 8, 2022. Retrieved July 27, 2022.
  15. ^ "Pilot Butte Taproom, Bend Poker Room brings new life to iconic dining spot". KTVZ. February 10, 2023. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  16. ^ a b "The 20 most popular Oregon state parks in 2018". oregonlive.com. The Oregonian. Retrieved April 27, 2020.


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