Big Butte

Big Butte
Isaac heading up the trail to the top of Big Butte

Two striking landmarks come into view when you drive into Butte on I-90: the massive terraced walls of Berkeley Pit, and the rounded peak of Big Butte, the hill towering above the west side of town. Berkeley Pit is a relatively new phenomenon, an artifact of Butte's shift from underground hardrock mining to open-pit mining in the mid 20th Century. Big Butte, on the other hand, is nearly 50 million years old, the eroded neck of a long extinct volcano.

I've always been intrigued by Big Butte, going back to long before we decided to move to Butte. The iconic M at the top — made from whitewashed limestone and lit up every night – was built in 1910 to honor the Montana School of Mining just below it, which now goes by the name of Montana Tech.

When we moved to Butte and arrived in town late on a Saturday night, I got up early the next morning and took our dogs Jamie, Alice, and Nancy on a hike to the M, to see it up close. Then, realizing that the top of the hill was just a short scramble above us, we continued  to the top and enjoyed the views of our new home.

I've been up Big Butte many times since, but in January 2023 I decided to make that steep little hike a part of my daily routine. I hiked to the top 25 of the 31 days of January, and I'm planning to continue that pace through the spring. Hiking season is coming, and a daily trip up Big Butte will keep my aging quads and glutes ready for more strenuous hikes to come. Below are some photographs and memories from my first month of daily trips up Butte's landmark hill.

On January 1st, I was busy all day but wanted to start my streak of daily hikes up Big Butte, so I went up around 9PM. You always have the top to yourself after dark in the winter.
On January 8th, Nancy, Isaac, and Megan joined me for a post-sunset hike.
On January 9th, I was feeling strong and decided to take both Nancy and Isaac. And I paid for it on the way down, when they pulled so hard toward a young man coming down the trail that they planted me face-down in the snow.
The view of Uptown Butte from the trail, looking east past Anselmo Mine, the Original Mine, and Berkeley Pit to Our Lady Of The Rockies on the Continental Divide ridge.