At 8,208 feet, Aspen Butte is the highest point in Oregon’s Mountain Lakes Wilderness and a great place to find fresh air and expansive views. The shortest access to Aspen Butte (12.8 miles round-trip) is from the Clover Creek Trailhead via the Clover Creek (USFS #3722) and Mountain Lakes (USFS #3727) Trails, with a use trail taking you to the actual summit. The trailhead at 5,700 feet, with unpaved parking for 6-8 cars but no amenities or potable water.
From the trailhead, the Clover Creek Trail #3722
is mostly level for its first 0.7 miles, then turns into the Clover Creek drainage and climbs gradually up the slope. At 2.3 miles from the trailhead, you’ll pass a small, unnamed pond and, at 2.7 miles, Clover Lake. This lake is small but can be a refreshing break on a hot day. Continuing up the Clover Creek Trail #3722
, you’ll reach a signed junction with the Mountain Lakes Loop Trail #3727
at 3.8 miles from the trailhead. Turn right (east) here and follow the Mountain Lakes Trail up to a viewpoint on the rim where you can see Lake Harriette below and Mount Harriman in the distance.
From this viewpoint, follow the Mountain Lakes Trail southeast below the rim to where it crosses the rim and start a steep descent toward Lake Harriette. Do not descend here. Rather turn right (southeast) onto a use trail that continues along the ridge toward Aspen Butte. Its tread is easy to see most of the way, but it is also marked with cairns here and there, particularly when it crosses one of the small boulder fields on the ridge. If in doubt, stay on or near the ridgecrest. The climb to the summit is mostly gentle and becomes only moderately steep (but with no scrambling) in its last 0.3 miles.
There was a fire lookout on the summit from 1910 to 1928; all that remains of it now is the view: Mount McLoughlin to the northwest, Mount Harriman, and Pelican Butte to the north; Upper Klamath Lake to the east; 14,179 foot Mount Shasta to the south. After taking in all these views (and maybe a lunch and a nap), retrace your steps to the trailhead.