Skiing the Cascade Volcanoes
        Amar Andalkar's Ski Mountaineering and Climbing Site
Ski Mountaineering Photos & Trip Reports Equipment & Info Cascade Volcanoes Ring of Fire Site Map

Table of Contents | Introduction | Ratings | WebCams | Bibliography | Highest Volcanoes | Snowfall & Snowdepth | Monthly Chart | Conifers | Compare | Distance | Sun Chart
  Lassen Peak
  Mount Shasta
  Medicine Lake Volcano
  Mount McLoughlin
  Pelican Butte
  Crater Lake
  Mount Bailey
  Mount Thielsen
  Diamond Peak
  Newberry Volcano
  Mount Bachelor
  Broken Top
  Three Sisters
  Mount Washington
  Three Fingered Jack
  Mount Jefferson
  Mount Hood
  Mount Saint Helens
  Mount Adams
  Goat Rocks
  Mount Rainier
  Glacier Peak
  Mount Baker
  Mount Garibaldi
  Mount Cayley
  Mount Meager

| Pelican Butte seen from the NE near Fort Klamath in June;
at the summit is the prominent cirque of the Northeast Bowl
(photo by Amar Andalkar)   <click to enlarge>

Pelican Butte
    8036 ft (2449 m) .
Location: Cascade Range, southern Oregon,
25 miles (40 km) NW of Klamath Falls
Lat / Long: 42.5° N, 122.1° W
Volcanic Type: Shield volcano
Volcanic Status: Dormant
First Ascent: Unknown, Native American
First Ski Descent:
Skiable Vertical: up to 3800 ft (1100 m)
Lift Served Vertical:   there has been a proposal for a ski area
covering the full 3800 ft (1100 m) vertical
Timberline: about 8000 ft (2400 m), near the summit
Administration: Winema National Forest
Protection Status:   Designated Roadless Area
User Fees: Northwest Forest Pass required for parking

    Many volcanoes in the Cascade Range have been completely overlooked by the general public, and Pelican Butte is one of them. Perhaps this is because its broad shield is less spectacular than the striking cone of nearby Mount McLoughlin. Nevertheless, Pelican Butte is the more voluminous of the two volcanoes, and despite its squat form, it rises an impressive 3800 ft (1150 m) above the Klamath Basin. Views from the summit, reachable in summer by a 4WD road, are exceptional, spanning the southern Cascades and the entire Klamath Basin. A pair of large Ice Age glacial cirques on the northeast side mar the otherwise near-perfect symmetry of the shield, and it is these steep bowls which hold the most interest for skiers.
    Since the 1960's there have been a number of proposals from Klamath Falls locals for construction of a ski area on the northeast flanks, with lifts stretching from the summit all the way down to the shore of Upper Klamath Lake, and one of the proposals is still under review by the Forest Service (see links below). Although the proposal is likely to be defeated on a number of environmental technicalities despite overwhelming local support, in this case a ski area might possibly be an improvement, since currently the area is given over to snowmobilers during the winter months. For backcountry skiers, the steep gullies and broad open slopes of the Northeast Bowls should be a tempting goal now, regardless of the fate of the ski area. In winter, access would be easiest from the Westside Road along Upper Klamath Lake, while in spring as the logging roads melt out the snowmobilers would disappear and access to the bowls via the summit road would become ideal. Pelican Butte receives over 400 inches of snowfall annually, and large amounts typically linger in the Northeast Bowls into July.

Route Ratings Starting
Quality Effort Ascent Descent
Summit Ski Mountaineering Routes:
Northeast Ridge
  from Westside Road

4200 ft
(1300 m)
3800 ft
(1150 m)
10 miles
(16 km)
The Northeast Bowls offer a variety of skiable lines, ranging in difficulty from expert straight down the 35-degree gullies to intermediate along the rim of the bowls. The vertical drop is about 1500 ft from the summit to the bottom of the cirque near Lake Francis, with much gentler terrain in the forest below. Access from the Westside Road starts from Malone Spring and follows old logging roads and trails up the east flank to the summit, although these are no longer shown on Forest Service maps. Access to the western flank begins with 9.5 miles of good gravel road (FSR 3651) from Highway 140, leading to the Pelican Butte road which services a lookout tower on the summit. These final 4.5 miles (above 6000 ft) are passable only to high-clearance 4WD vehicles. In spring, those with suitable vehicles could attempt to drive the summit road to snowline, although it is narrow and turning around would be difficult. Others should simply park beside the gravel road and hike the melted out sections of the summit road until snowline is reached. The short approach makes it feasible to yo-yo several runs in the Northeast Bowls.
Northeast Bowls
  from Westside Road

11 miles
(18 km)
Northeast Bowls
  from the summit road


6000 ft
(1800 m)
2000 ft
(600 m)
-1500 ft
(450 m)
11 miles
(18 km)

| Panoramic view from the summit of Pelican Butte, with a 150-degree field of view spanning northeast to south:
Agency Lake and Upper Klamath Lake are in the basin below, with the summits of the Mountain Lakes Wilderness (an ancient collapsed volcano) at right
(digitally composited from six photographs by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>

| Panoramic view from the summit of Pelican Butte, looking down into and across the width of the Northeast Bowls in mid-July;
this view encompasses the bulk of the advanced terrain of the proposed Pelican Butte Ski Area
(digitally composited from six photographs by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>

| Topographic map of Pelican Butte
showing ski routes listed in table above
<click map to enlarge, 228 kB file>

| The lookout/microwave tower at the summit of Pelican Butte
(photo by Amar Andalkar) <click to enlarge>

Useful Web Links:

Winema National Forest: Home Page
Winema National Forest: Virtual Winema (Quicktime panoramas, very cool)
Winema National Forest: Pelican Butte Ski Area Master Development Plan
Pelican Butte Ski Area
Pelican Butte 2000 Committee
Pelican Butte Fire Lookout Tower
National Weather Service Office: Medford, OR
National Weather Service: Southern Oregon Cascades Zone Forecast (alternate link)
The Weather Channel: Fort Klamath, OR, Forecast
USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory: Pelican Butte
Deschutes National Forest: Oregon Volcanoes: Pelican Butte

List of Guidebooks:  (detailed references on the bibliography page)

Southern Oregon Cross Country Ski Trails Summit Road and Northeast Bowl (skiing info)
Backcountry Ski Oregon Summit Road and Northeast Bowl(skiing info)

List of Maps:

Map Series Scale Topo? Map Names Year Notes
USGS 7.5-minute 1:24,000 Yes, 40 ft
Yes, 20 ft
Yes, 20 ft
Yes, 20 ft
Pelican Butte
Crystal Spring
Lake of the Woods North
Pelican Bay
Pelican Butte falls near the intersection
  of these four maps; only the first two
  are really necessary, though
USFS Wilderness 1:63,360 Yes, 40 ft / 20 ft Sky Lakes Wilderness 1993 Very useful for forest road information
  and overview of entire Pelican Butte
US Forest Service 1:126,720 No Winema National Forest 1994 Somewhat useful for forest road information

More photos, routes, links, references, etc. coming soon...
Please contact me with any suggestions, additions, or corrections.

Previous Page (Mount McLoughlin) | Pelican Butte | Next Page (Crater Lake)
Table of Contents | Introduction | Ratings | WebCams | Bibliography | Highest Volcanoes | Snowfall & Snowdepth | Monthly Chart | Conifers | Compare | Distance | Sun Chart
Ski Mountaineering Photos & Trip Reports Equipment & Info Cascade Volcanoes Ring of Fire Site Map

Amar Andalkar   Seattle, WA, USA   <About the Author / Contact Me>
All material on this website is ©1997-2024 by Amar Andalkar unless otherwise noted.
Page content last modified: Thursday, December 18, 2003
PHP script last modified: Tuesday, February 4, 2020