Sutter County Highpoint Trip Report

South Butte

Date: November 11, 2001
Author: T. Watrous

The Sutter Buttes are on private property. Unless you know a land owner, The Middle Mountain Foundation provides the only legally-feasible public access to the Sutter Buttes. This report provides an update on the Middle Mountain Foundation guided hike called the summit ascent and additional information on South Butte access.

As of November 2001, the summit ascent that the Middle Mountain Foundation provides goes to the North Butte which is not the actual high point of Sutter County. The cost is $30 per person. Furthermore, the hike does not actually go to the very top of the North Butte. Hikers are led to a small summit plateau directly next to a summit block on the North Butte. The summit block looks like 30-40 feet of fairly easy class 3 climbing. Unfortunately, the Middle Mountain Foundation guides won't permit you to attempt the summit block. The "summit ascent" hike is still a nice hike, but if tagging the very top of North Butte is your real objective you will be disappointed.

The approach and trail head for this hike is on private property. The following directions are for informational purposes only. The approach is from East Butte and AHLF Roads. The trail head is approximately 10.6 miles from the starting point at the Museum in Yuba City. You go through a series of gates, several of which are locked. The trail head that the Middle Mountain Foundation uses is located very near the Dean Ranch house.

I was able to glean some information about the South Butte from the MMF guides. Some of this information conflicts with information provided by Gary Suttle in "California County Summits" for whatever reason. Apparently, the Middle Mountain Foundation has never led official hikes to the summit of the South Butte and they don't plan to offer hikes to the South Butte in the future. I was told that the MMF directors had only been up there once as part of a public relations thing with the communications company that owns the property on South Butte. A friend of mine called the MMF last year and was told that the MMF is working on access to the South Butte. The impression I got from the guides was that this was not the case.

The South Butte apparently has a fence (barbed wire?) around the top of it. I was told that the road on the south side doesn't go the very top (this is confirmed by the topo map) and that tower workers use something like a tram to haul equipment to the very top. After the hike, we drove the road around the Buttes to the south side. From the south side there is an obvious road that appears to be the most direct way to the South Butte. However, there is a large no trespassing sign that says that credentials will be checked and violators will be prosecuted.