For a little backcountry snowshoeing or cross country skiing in Eastern Oregon, head to Dixie Butte. Located in the heart of the Blue Mountains (which, yes, are as lovely as they sound), the butte is a standalone summit with great views amid snowy solitude.
Experienced winter adventurers head to these slopes in the spring and winter, when a dense blanket of snow coats the landscape. The path to the 7,592-foot-high summit follows a densely wooded Forest Service road until a pull off at the top. There’s no one right path to explore up here, but rather several connecting trails. Bring a map and GPS, as the network of roads is complex enough to have you walking around the mountains for days.
Make it to the summit on foot or by car and you’ll be rewarded, though. All around Dixie Butte the land drops off and rolls downwards to a valley. The Blue Mountain Ridge dominates the horizon, and in snow season it makes for a spectacular sight. In the distance, you can also pick out Strawberry Mountain and the Strawberry Range, the Greenhorn and Elkhorn Mountains, the John Day River and Prairie City. Make this trek on a clear day, and you’ll see them all.
While this spot is great for snowshoeing and skiing, it's great for hikes in the warmer months, too. Bikers and trail runners share these paths also, so expect more company on the trails when the weather warms. When the weather turns cold, few make the trip up, so expect solitude in the snow.
Note that during hunting season it is strongly advised that travelers wear bright colored clothing, as hunting permits are issued in the area. For safety, check the weather closely before driving or hiking to the summit, as the top is prone to changing weather patterns.
Directions from Prairie City:
Drive about 14 miles east of Prairie City on US Highway 26. Look for Forest Service Road 2610 which leads directly to the summit. It’s a signed turnout marking the way to Dixie Butte.