White Butte, North Dakota is located between the towns of Amidon, ND and Bowman, ND. White Butte is the highest point in the state of North Dakota. Rising to an altitude of 3,506 feet (1,069m) above sea level, it is the 31st highest summit of U.S. state highpoints.
While best known for its status as the North Dakota state highpoint, White Butte is also the highpoint of Slope County. The second highest point in the state and county, nearby Black Butte, with an elevation of 3,470 feet (1,058m) and a prominence of 448 feet (137m) is approximately 17 miles away.
Southwestern North Dakota, with its badlands, buttes, and broad vistas is largely the result of hundreds of thousands of years of erosion. The landscape here is not glacial. It has been carved from layers of flat-lying sandstone and other materials.
White Butte and nearby Rattlesnake Butte were originally named the Chalky Buttes because of their white color. White Butte has a sandstone caprock of Oligocene age White River and Miocene age Arikaree rocks, formations that make up the landscape in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Below that can be seen the smooth, dark gray slopes of the South Heart Member of the Chadron Formation.
There are discrepancies among online resources regarding the naming conventions for various navigation points. The correct, pre-populated destination on Google Maps is labeled "White Butte Trailhead." In actuality, the Google Maps destination for "White Butte Trailhead" leads to the White Butte parking area. "White Butte Trailhead" as identified on Google Maps is not the actual trailhead; however, it is the correct destination for purposes of vehicle navigation along the state highways and county backroads to the general location of the trailhead parking area.
When using Google Maps for highway navigation, make sure to select "White Butte Trailhead" and not "White Butte, Chalky Butte, ND" from Google's pre-populated destinations. "White Butte, Chalky Butte, ND" is owned by a different landholder, fenced off, and clearly marked with multiple no trespassing signs [Credit sam807].
Vehicle access is only allowed at the trailhead parking area. Do not drive up the access road to the abandoned farmhouse or the trailhead gate.
Drive 21.8 miles from Bowman, ND; population ~1650, to the White Butte Trailhead. Drive 8 miles from Amidon, ND; population ~20, to the White Butte Trailhead.
- 1.7 miles from the trailhead parking area to the summit (3.4 miles roundtrip; discrepancy due to rounding).
- 0.7 miles from the trailhead parking area to the abandoned farmhouse.
- 0.3 miles from the abandoned farmhouse to the trailhead gate.
- 0.2 miles from the trailhead gate to the sandy wash.
- 0.1 miles from the sandy wash to the downed barbed wire cross fencing.
- 0.3 miles from the downed barbed wire cross fencing to the summit.
- No permits are required.
- No fixed fee is required to access the trail. Access is granted on a free-will donation basis to be deposited in the Iron Ranger at the trailhead parking area.
- Vehicle access is only allowed at the trailhead parking area. Do not drive up the access road to the abandoned farmhouse or the trailhead gate.
- Make sure to close the trailhead gate to prevent livestock from escaping onto the surrounding land.
- Make sure not to stray onto the adjoining land to the East. It is private property owned by a different landholder and is clearly marked "No Trespassing."
- Please respect the rights of the private property landowners and Leave No Trace!
- The Frontier Travel Center truck stop in Bowman, ND provides 24-hour bathrooms, free wifi, food, gas, and overnight parking.
- Campgrounds are available in and around the area of Amidon, ND for fair-weather ascents during tourist season.
- Bowman, ND is the closest city with hotel lodging for non-campers and off-season ascents.