Crooked River National Grasslands
Hiked Gray Butte 1/6/2020 9.2 miles with 2794ft elevation gain solo from the east side, parked near Skull Hollow Campground right off the road. The dirt road up to the gate closure is good for all vehicles with dispersed camping off road starting after Skull Hollow Campground (Skull Hollow was closed). Because I could not find any information on the road before I went and it was dark when I arrived. I decided to play it safe and park in the big lot (enough space for 20+ vehicles or trailers) right next to the main road. I hung my national parks pass, but did not see any signs stating a pass was required. I road (minimal snow and ice on road and not difficult to cross) hiked in all the way to the top off the Butte and on the way down I did portions of the Cole Loop Trail (single track trail used by bikes and horses). No bathrooms here unless Skull Hollow is open. I only saw 3 other hikers/trail runner all after 10:30am and very close to the Trailheads.
I checked out the SW trail from the top of the butte (snowy and Icy), which can be hard to find as there was no defined looking trail until you looked over on the west side. I was lazy and did not want to put on my micros so opted out of the loop.
High frigid winds at the top of the Butte. It was a partly cloudy day so no surrounding peak views, but on a clear day I'm positive you could see it all. Great views of portions of Smith Rock State Park, I'd love to come back here and hike into Smith Rock via this area. Fabulous sunrise!!!
Lots of beautiful junipers, fauna, rock formations and dispersed camp spots! I saw no wildlife.
Lower portions of the trail would be great for small children, but Gray Butte itself is a long steep rocky climb and I would not recommend for children 8 and under also not handicap accessible.
The gated road up to Gray Butte is closed to motor vehicles September 28th to March 31 to protect wildlife and soil. There is also a parking area here for 10 cars and 2 water troughs.
Cole Loop trail was beautiful, but watch out for horse poop. There are a couple parking area for the Cole Loop trail.
Make sure you have a map of the area.
I will definitely be back to hike in this area!