Bend is one of the few cities in the world where a volcano is located within its urban boundary. Rising nearly 500 feet above the center of Bend is Pilot Butte. Pilot Butte is an old cinder cone volcano. A cinder cone is considered the most simple and the most common type of volcano and is found throughout the Western United States. They typically form as a vent, where lava is ejected from the opening and then blown into the air, where it then shatters into smaller pieces and falls as cinders. Cinder cones have a unique, unmistakable look to them characterized by an oval or circular shape, often with a small crater at the top. Luckily, you can drive, walk, or bike to the top of this unique landmark.
From the top of Pilot Butte one can see a 360-degree view of Bend and the surrounding area. In the 1920’s, the City of Bend acquired Pilot Butte and a state park was placed here. If you’ve driven Greenwood Avenue between NE 12th and NE Purcell Boulevard, you’ve likely seen the sign to access the top of Pilot Butte and the 100-acre park. The paved road, which is closed every winter, gently winds around the butte to the top. If driving, watch for walkers, joggers, and bikers on the road, as it is a very popular area for these activities because of its prime location in the middle of the city. There are three different trails that hikers and bikers can take as well that winds through sage and juniper.
From the top of Pilot Butte, not only can you see the entire city of Bend, but the breathtaking Cascade Range, and to the east, the high desert and numerous cinder cones and mountain ranges in the distance. Interpretive displays are present at the top which tells you which mountains and landmarks you are seeing. Because Bend has over 300 days of sunshine, you have a pretty good chance of being able to see as far north as Mount Adams and the Blue Mountains to the east.
If You Go:
Directions: Vehicle access to the Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint located on the north side of Greenwood Avenue between NE 12th Street and NE Purcell Boulevard. The paved road is closed in the winter.
Amenities: Flush toilets, interpretive signs, seating, trails, parking.