69. Saddle Butte Lava Fields (Saddle Butte Unit)
Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 233-234.
What to Expect: Several collapsed segments of lava tubes allowing cave exploration
Distance: 14.1-mile loop
Elevation Range: 3,900-4,254 feet
Drinking Water: No
Best Times: Spring, summer, fall
USGS 7.5' Maps: Iron Mountain, Palomino Lake, Saddle Mountain, Wrangle Butte
Oregon Map Starting Point: Burns
On OR 78, 0.3 mile east of milepost 83 (measured from Burns), turn northerly onto a dirt road. Proceed 4.9 miles to an intersection. Continue northwesterly 1.8 miles and park at the intersection of an unimproved way to north. On your left coming in was Coyote Trap Cave, worthy of a side trip.
Hike (Palomino Lake quad) the way northerly 1.8 miles to Tire Tube Cave. Continue northeasterly 1.4 miles to Fortymile Cave. If you are feeling adventur- ous, can navigate by maps, and have a good sense of direction, continue easterly 0.3 mile to a key intersection of ways. Continue easterly 2.6 miles on the way, and beyond cross- country (Iron Mountain quad), to the Owyhee River Cave at the east end of about a mile of numerous tube collapses. Follow the tube northeasterly 0.4 mile to Burns Cave (Wrangle Butte quad). Another 0.6 mile northeasterly is Rattle- snake Cave. Set a course west-southwesterly 2.5 miles to the end of an unimproved way (Saddle Butte quad). Follow this way back 1 mile to the key intersection (Palomino Lake quad). Return to your vehicle the way you came.
The entire exploration is definitely a carry-your-own-water backpack. The cross- country can be very slow going. Though open and flat—and Saddle Butte to the north always serves as a landmark—you should know how to read topographic maps and the land. A Global Positioning System receiver could be a lifesaver be- cause it all starts to look the same. Day hikers should return after Fortymile Cave.