If you’re of the outdoor recreation persuasion, but not necessarily fond of long drives in order to pursue it, one of the benefits of living in Bend is the fact that it’s surrounded by scores of close-in hiking options.
Case in point: Horse Butte, which Deschutes National Forest refers to as “a handy hub” for trails, including the 11-mile Coyote Loop Trail, or an out-and-back to Bessie Butte, about 3 miles each way. Located southeast of Bend, Horse Butte is very popular as a jumping off point with horseback and, in the wetter, more wintry months, when the sandy trails firm up, mountain bike riders.
Even when this hub’s multiple parking areas are fairly full, you’ll notice that Horse Butte itself, a cinder cone located just west of Horse Butte Road, makes for a relatively quiet, uncrowded hike. Last weekend, my daughter Lilly and I opted to head up at the east end, circled the small caldera at the summit, which affords views of Bessie, Coyote, Cabin and other nearby buttes, as well as the desert to the east and, on clear days, the Cascades Range to the west. Be sure to dress warmly, as it gets windy up there, as some of the gnarled ponderosas and junipers.
Getting there: From Knott Road, head east on Rickard Road about 1.8 miles, then south on Billadeau Road, which turns into Horse Butte Road and becomes gravel, for a total of 1.5 miles. Turn right on Horse Butte Trail, where there are a few parking options, including a little-used lot at the west end of the butte.