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Up Schonchin Butte


Schonchin Butte in summer, with clouds


The most distinctive landmark of Lava Beds National Monument is Schonchin Butte, the top of which is adorned by a fire lookout (barely visible at the right side of the summit in the above photograph). It is not the highest point in the monument, but its prominent central location, proximity to the paved road, and hiking trail to the top make it’s presence felt by visitors. The hiking trail, at 1.5 miles round trip and an elevation gain of 465 feet, is fairly modest. The trail splits at one point, creating a loop over the top. I would suggest the longer, lower-angled, more westerly route to the summit for the way down, for sure. (I prefer it for both up, and down.) The shorter trail is steeper and covered with loose cinders.


Juniper and Mount Dome



I have hiked to the top several times, the most recent being just this past week. The photograph above was made on an ascent ten or twelve years ago, during a period of wildfire smoke air pollution. The juniper tree was just below the former trail – the trail was re-routed after recent wildfires. The butte in the background is Mount Dome, which stands just over 1000 feet higher than Schonchin Butte. For you photographers out there, the photograph was made with a 4x5 view camera, and not without some amount of effort to get my tripod positioned just right on the slope above the tree!


On my most recent trip up the butte I hoped to take advantage of the bird’s-eye view of the surrounding landscape. I ascended mid- to late-afternoon, and was treated to wonderful shading of the terrain surrounding the butte for an extended period of time, due to the low angle of the sun this time of year. I would have liked to photograph the lookout itself, but its appearance was unappealing because of all its windows being boarded up for the winter - I’ll have to go back in the summer to photograph the lookout with glass windows. For the time being, please enjoy the photographs below, made from the balcony around the lookout, and from the trail.




Lava flow and Semi Crater


Mount Shasta from Schonchin Butte, telephoto lens




Burnt Junipers and Mount Dome



Caldwell Butte


Burnt tree and shadow of Schonchin Butte


Sheepy Ridge and Stukel Mountain beyond a summit ridge of Schonchin Butte


Shadow of Schonchin Butte from the summit






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