Minidoka County High Point Trip Report

Bear Den Butte (5,104 ft)

Date: May 11, 2002
Author: Zach Vickery

Bear Den Butte is a nondescript point in the lava flows of the Great Rift. It is not far from the Craters of the Moon National Monument, a worthy side trip in itself. This trip report is meant to be a detailed guide to the highpoint, since it is located in the middle of nowhere with numerous poorly marked roads between civilization and summit fulfillment. We even got confused a couple of times. However, it seems the BLM is slowly posting more road signs.

Our approach was from US 20 near Carey. At virtual milepost 209.6 on US 20, you will want to turn onto the unsigned "Laidlaw Park Road", which has a stop sign at the corner. Reset odometer to 0. The following road log has distances in miles.

1.9 Reach a junction, proceed straight. Turning left will lead back to US 20.
2.6 Pass Craters of the Moon National Monument sign.
3.8 Pass "Paddelford Flat" sign. We saw hundreds of sheep here, many in the road.
4.8 Ignore road on right. This is the road to Kimama, and is signed.
5.9 Ignore jeep trail on left.
6.7 Ignore jeep trail on right.
9.2 Cross cattle guard.
9.5 Pass "Little Park" BLM sign.
10.4 Ignore jeep trail on right.
11.5 Ignore jeep trail on left.
12.6 Pass water tanks on left.
13.3 Cross cattle guard.
13.6 Pass corrals and a water tank.
14.1 Ignore jeep trail on right.
14.4 Ignore jeep trail on right.
15.0 Cross cattle guard.
16.0 Reach a 4-way junction. It is BLM signed "Big Blowout Butte 3, Snowdrift Crater 7, South Park well 9".
        Turn right, heading toward the South Park Well.
16.8 Ignore jeep trail on right.
17.1 Cross cattle guard.
17.7 Cross cattle guard.
19.5 Cross cattle guard.
20.0 Ignore jeep trail on right.
21.1 Ignore road on left.
21.3 Ignore road on right going toward Laidlaw Butte.
24.7 Reach the South Park Well (unsigned). This is a 4-way junction with tankers and some small buildings,
        located on a small hill southwest of the intersection. Turn left.
26.0 Turn right at the T-intersection.
27.1 Pass water tanks on the right.
27.8 Cross cattle guard.
28.0 Pass Point Lake on the right.
30.9 Ignore road on right.
32.2 Pass a lake bed on the left.
33.0 Ignore a jeep trail on the left.
33.4 Reach the Bear Den Butte BLM sign. From here, park somewhere suitable.

Once parked, it is an easy half hour trip to the top and back through open sagebrush country. The highpoint is on the rounded, vegetated hill, not the rocky point crowned with a cairn. It is possible to traverse the crater rim to the lower point, but beware! Halfway to our destination, I was buzzed by a rattler, which we watched hide under a rock. We quickly headed to the cairn, looked around a minute, then headed back. Staying on the grass near where we saw the first rattler, we studied the terrain. We soon spotted no less that 3 rattlers at the head of a hole going beneath a large lava rock. A few feet further from the den, the previous rattler buzzed away, meaning no less then 4 rattlesnakes were present. Based on this, I would recommend visiting only the grassy, true highpoint, or planning the trip in the late fall or early spring when the snakes aren't out.

Despite the warnings, this is a neat area - views take in the Pioneer Mountains to the north, Lost River Mountains to the northeast, Big Southern Butte in the east, and vast openness in other directions.