Black Butte WSA is an inactive volcano of recent origin (4000 to 6000 years ago) rising about 200 feet above the surrounding older lava plateau. The vent of this volcano is an irregularly shaped subsidence crater up to .5 mile wide and 80 to 200 feet deep. The crater contains a jumbled variety of lava benches, cliffs, jagged outcrops, lava tubes and vents. The flanks of Black Butte are covered with young lava that has fractured in polygonal plates up to four feet across and one to six inches thick. The basalt in the area varies in color from black to purplish-black on the exposed desert varnished surfaces with a dull, brownish-red on the under surface.

Visitation Information

In Idaho, BLM manages more than 4,000 acres of public lands in the Black Butte Wilderness Study Area. The rugged volcanic features and desert environment have outstanding opportunities for camping, hiking, geologic study and photography. Camping and hiking can be challenging here on the rough lava and steep slopes. Some hunting also occurs primarily on the lower slopes and western part of the WSA. Recommended time to visit this area is spring and fall to avoid extreme temperatures in winter and summer.

Visitor Advisory

Visitors should expect a rugged and austere volcanic landscape accessible only by unmaintained two track roads. Visitors should come prepared for rugged backcountry travel and hiking.