One day my wife and I happened to go by Black Butte Lake while traveling on I-5. We arrived there at 6:00 PM only to find they button the park up at that time. The experience had an Area 51 feel to it, but we decided we would return and see what the area had to offer. Today was that day, and I think we found Area 52.
Arriving a Black Butte Lake at 12:45 PM we were greeted by a 5:00 PM closing time with a five dollar Day Use Fee. We parked at the dam and viewed the barren landscape highlighted by the escarpment known as Black Butte. Trees in the entire region are extremely sparse or non-existent, the terrain is either exposed rock or various forms of ground cover. We started our mountain bike ride right from the Black Butte Dam parking lot heading East across the dam toward the trails. On the other side of the Black Butte Dam, a gravel road goes down to its base. Pay close attention here, or you will miss the turn for the Osprey trail about half way down the road.
We connected with the Coyote Trail at the bottom of the dam road and headed for the other side of the Black Butte. Once on the Northern exposure of Black Butte, we found were the Osprey Trail connected to the Coyote. The trail appeared to climb to the top of Black Butte, so we took it, and in a short amount of time were at the West end of the Black Butte precipice. After a brief break at the top, we headed toward the bottom to see what the Northern section of the Osprey Trail had to offer.
As I said earlier, this is a barren landscape. Luckily for us, we were riding it after substantial rains had pummeled the area. Otherwise, the vast assortment of stickers may have induced a retreat response. It seemed as though every form of Northern California sticker has a strong presence in the area including Star Thistle, Redstem Filaree, Goatheads, and I am sure a host of others. We pressed on into the Osprey Trail that weaves in and out of the terrain. It is possible to have fun on it, but at the end, you have hardly moved any distance from the Black Butte. It leaves you with a “what in the hell did I just ride” Area 52 type of feeling.
The Osprey Trail intersects Irwin Road at Anglers Cove; this is where we decided to head back to the truck via the Coyote Trail. Three in the afternoon with the park closing the Coyote Trail was the obvious choice. The Coyote Trail was much more like a typical mountain bike trail, maintaining a relative direction of travel, rather than the labyrinth of the Osprey Trail. Once back on the Coyote Trail, it was a short haul to the parking lot at the dam.
This Black Butte Lake area is different, but I already feel the pull to go back and ride the whole thing. I think the perfect day to ride there would be one where the skies are full of Cumulus Clouds flying in formation, with enough time to ride trails on the other side of Irwin Road as well. In all, our little ride was 13.8 miles and 1500 feet of climbing. I would think to ride all of the trails on the map it would be possible to double the mileage and the ascent.
Route: Black Butte Lake
Activity: Mountain Bike
Distance: 13.81 miles