Red Buttes Wilderness

Red Buttes Wilderness

The 20,796 acre Red Buttes Wilderness straddles the crest of the Siskiyou Mountains. The twin summits of Red Buttes anchor the southern extreme of the area in California, where reddish peridotite rock, nudged up from a 425-million-year-old seafloor by plate shifts in the earth's crust, now supports unusual plant communities. The area's geology is ancient and very complex; some of the highest points were carved by glaciers during the last Ice Age.

The area is about 13 miles long and six miles wide, with elevations ranging from about 2,800' in the lower Butte Fork Canyon to 6,739' on the east summit of the Red Buttes. Rocky buttes, forested ridges, and small glacial-carved lake basins characterize this rugged terrain, with a dense jumble of manzanita, snowbrush, and other brushy plants carpeting the dry south-facing slopes.

Cold streams rush through extensive stands of old-growth ponderosa pine, sugar pine, western white pine, incense cedar, and Douglas-fir. White fir, Shasta red fir, and mountain hemlock grow on upper slopes. The endemic Brewer's spruce and Sadler oak, as well as Alaskan yellow cedar (on the far southern fringes of its natural range), and other unusual plant species are found here. Even the area's many different evergreen-broadleaf brush species are rarely found growing in such close proximity.

Big sugar pines (some over 8' in dia.) dominate the lower-elevation forest of the Butte Fork canyon, which provides habitat for black bears, cougars, deer, and coyotes. The rarely seen ring-tail cat (a reclusive relative of the raccoon) inhabits the area, peregrine falcons nest on remote cliffs, and bats roost in the rock overhangs and sinkholes near the Buttes.

Summers are typically dry, but snow buries much of the higher country from November until May. Along the main Siskiyou Crest portion of the Boundary Trail (California) the south-facing route requires travelers to carry plenty of water.

At a Glance


Nation-Wide Wilderness Regulations:

  • Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is prohibited. This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Red Buttes Wilderness Regulations:

  • Caching of equipment is prohibited. Storing equipment, personal property, or supplies is prohibited.
  • Possessing or storing hay or unprocessed (viable) grain is prohibited. 
  • Camping prohibited within 100 feet from lakes and 50 feet from streams or springs. Over-use in these areas has led to severe loss of ground cover.
  • Maximum group size: 8 persons and/or 12 stock.
  • State of California campfire permits required, regardless of whether inside or outside wilderness. (Applicable only within California portion of Red Buttes Wilderness Area.)
  • Grazing prohibited: No grazing before August 1. Because of the short growing season in the high-elevation area, grazing is restricted until after grass seed has "set" and dropped (i.e., usually after August 1).
  • Stock use restriction - mandatory setback from water: 200 feet. Enforced in order to maintain clean water and prevent de-vegetation of lakeshore areas.
  • Stock use restriction - no hitching or tethering: 1 hour. This regulation aims to reduce the mortality of trees and to end the creation of dusty/muddy stock-holding sites.
Closest Towns:
  • Jacksonville, OR
  • Ashland, OR
  • Cave Junction, OR
  • Yreka, CA
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District

General Information


Trailheads and trails that access Red Buttes Wilderness at Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest

General Notes:

Topo Maps

Download free U.S. Forest Service Topo maps.

Go to for online maps and other important Wilderness information.


Day Hiking

  • This Wilderness was named for the reddish-orange hue that a high content of iron and magnesium lends to the dramatic peridotite and serpentine formations of Red Buttes and adjacent Kangaroo Mountain. 


Horse Riding

  • This Wilderness was named for the reddish-orange hue that a high content of iron and magnesium lends to the dramatic peridotite and serpentine formations of Red Buttes and adjacent Kangaroo Mountain. 

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities