Three Tree Butte


Forest Service Trail #26

Why? An extension or alternative to the 3-mile White Pine loop

Season: Year-round if you also snowshoe or, possibly, cross country ski.

Ease: Moderate. It’s about 3 ¾ miles with 2,000 feet in elevation change, end to end, the majority down hill if you start at the top, of course.

If you’re tired of hiking the basic loop at Giant White Pine, take two cars up Highway 6 and hike the Three Tree Butte Trail. What you’ll find is a sheltered trail, a walk in the woods over much of the distance. Most of it is well-marked, perhaps primarily for cross country skiing since the first half mile or so of trail is part of the North South cross country trails system. There are views here and there, especially to the east, of Bald and Little Bald Mountains, the former with a lookout visible on top, and Strychnine Ridge jutting out from the latter. There’s Sand Mountain too, and Mica Mountain right next to it. In between you and all those is the drainage of the East Fork Meadow Creek. Not unpleasant vistas at all.

Three Tree Butte was a lookout site, and there’s a sign on the main trail that directs you uphill to it. Based on one trip up with three of us looking, however, I’d say there wasn’t much to see and there weren’t any better views from there.

The Three Tree Butte Trail starts on a road at North South, and ends on the East Fork Meadow Creek Trail #224A in the Giant White Pine system – the latter actually a part of the circle I usually walk there. At that junction, you might be amused, as I have been, by the discrepancy between the distances noted on the old and the new trail signs. For example, from there it’s either 3 or 4 miles to the trailhead at North South, depending on whether you’re reading the old or new signs, respectively.

Trail Notes: At about the hike’s midpoint, the trail crosses a road that looks to be still in use. An oddity, perhaps, but then this is not a wilderness hike.

Directions: Turn right at mile marker 23 on Highway 6, at top of the Palouse Divide hill. Drive 0.1 miles and turn right on the 377 Road, which is closed to motors from December 1-April 1. Drive (or walk) 0.2 miles to the 3941 Road on the right. That’s where the trailhead is.
Information: Palouse Ranger District, CWNF, (208) 875-1133.

Map: USGS West Dennis, Idaho

Connections: At the junction with the Giant White Pine Trail, you have three choices. If you take the right turn toward White Pine, it’s ½ mile from there down to the parking area where the old tree lies at rest. If you want a bit more of a walk, turn left and walk most of the 3-mile White Pine circle. Or, you can go straight on the connector that joins the two segments of the Giant White Pine Trail. The connector goes up, then down, to make that join, at which point you would turn right to head to the parking lot.