Distance: 3.5 km
Elevation gain: 260 m View map Download GPS track
Naming note: There are two named buttes in this general area. This one was known as Mesa Butte for nearly 100 years before being officially named Square Butte in 1994. It now goes by both names, depending on who you ask. A bit further west is another butte that was historically known as Death’s Head
. In 1994, however, it was officially named Mesa Butte. It now also goes by both names. Confusing, eh?
At only 3.5 km round trip this is a short and easy hike that is perfect for after work. Given the perpetual snowy weekends this spring and our tiredness with repeatedly hiking up Prairie Mountain
, this seemed like a great alternative. With a fire pit at the top it also made for a great picnic.
There is a complex network of trails in this area, many leading to the summit, but the one we followed was the most direct and started a few hundred meters north of the Mesa Butte equestrian area at a short access road to a gas well. Follow this road for a very short distance, then turn onto a trail to the left just before reaching the fenced well. It's impossible to miss. Ascend briefly, then emerge into a regrowth area littered with gun shells, targets and other assorted garbage identifying the hunters as being of the douchebag variety. This is only a very short section of the trail, however, and it is soon nice again.
On this day the trail was snow covered, and coupled with game trails and a few other branches I decided to simply rely on a GPS track I had to navigate. In patches where the snow had melted there were bits of well used trail present however, so I doubt navigation would be at all problematic a week from now.
The views from the top are decent for such a short hike and ample wildlife (we saw many mule deer, a couple partridge, and potentially wild horses) make this a nice outing. If you're competent with campfires, the fire pit at the top is a nice addition as well. Just be certain it's out when you leave (there is no water, so either bring some or use snow).