Sweet Grass Hills:  Gold Butte
With yet another weekend of unsettled weather in the mountains, I returned to the Sweet Grass Hills of northern Montana on 28 May 2016 to hike up Gold Butte, the shortest of the three main butte complexes in the area.  Using Garmin's MapSource program, I mapped out a fairly straightforward driving route to the Cameron Lake trailhead which is the best access for Gold Butte according to this website.  The same website mentions that, although the land surrounding Gold Butte is private, there is an understanding in place to allow hiker access without the need to acquire additional permission.  From Cameron Lake, I essentially made a beeline for the west slopes of Gold Butte.  The intervening landscape is generally open and easy to navigate, but there are a couple of fences that need to be hopped.  Many options exist for climbing up the west slopes.  I chose to ascend an obvious rubble-filled gully which led me to a surprising rock slide.  From there, I ascended grassy slopes until I reached the black rubble that comprises the upper part of the mountain.  Similar to Mount Brown (East Butte complex) and West Butte, numerous game trails and beaten paths criss-cross the black rubble on Gold Butte making it quite easy to ascend.  Unlike the other two buttes though, the summit of Gold Butte is rugged, well-defined and very scenic.  After a lengthy and enjoyable break on the summit, I descended a slightly different route down the west slopes by utilizing a broad grassy bench that I had earlier considered ascending.  This route turned out to be much simpler than my ascent route and would be my recommendation for anyone considering a hike up Gold Butte.  Another easy plod across open grassland with a couple of fence-hops had me back at the trailhead near Cameron Lake without any problems.  Despite being overshadowed by higher buttes, an interesting approach coupled with a fantastic summit make Gold Butte the best hike, by far, in the Sweet Grass Hills.
This is a popular fishing hole. Gold Butte is reflected in Cameron Lake.
Where's Dennis Moore? Lupins are one of the many wildflowers blooming in the Sweet Grass Hills on this day.
I think it's some sort of gas line since it ends at a locked hut further on. Sonny comes across a curious hose snaking across the field.
It's a lonely land...wait, there's a second car at Cameron Lake! The two bodies of water at left are Parsell Lake and Cameron Lake.  At right is West Butte.
I wonder if this hollow cairn is used for burning stuff... A large hollow cairn sits atop a rocky mound at the foot of Gold Butte.  Sonny dubs this mound, "Cony Rocks" (1376 metres).
The rocks provide great cover for the bunnies. Here is one of the "Cony Rocks".
I'm not sure if they're supposed to be white or pink. Prairie phlox is another wildflower that is abundant in the area.
Looking for gold! Sonny hikes up rubble on the lower slopes of Gold Butte.
Easy scrambling either way. Sonny's ascent route goes up the left skyline while his descent route follows the grassy bench to the right.
There are some big rocks in this slide... A huge boulder catches Sonny's eye.
I think I've been spotted! A couple of mule deer scamper about on the grassy slopes of Gold Butte.
It's a perennial favourite! Shooting stars are always a welcome sight on any hike.
Aaayyyyyyy!! Sonny gives the 'thumbs up' on the summit of Gold Butte (1984 metres).  In the distance is the East Butte complex.
If you look carefully, you can also spot "Cony Rocks"...and maybe a rabbit or two! Here is the view of Parsell Lake and Cameron Lake from the summit of Gold Butte.
I will likely come back to hike both bumps. Middle Butte is the bump in front of the right cloud shadow.  Inexplicably, the higher bump partially covered by the shadow is unnamed.
Access to Mount Royal may be tricky... The East Butte complex is mainly comprised of Mount Brown (leftmost high point) and Mount Royal.
Probably the best summit ridge of the Sweetgrass Hills. West Butte is shaded by clouds in the distance in this view along Gold Butte's summit ridge.
I think the flowers are bird's-foot trefoil. Yellow flowers adorn the slopes below "Cony Rocks".
Beware of ducks around here... Gold Butte is reflected in a small pond.
F**cking duck! This belligerent female mallard spoiled Sonny's second attempt to snap the previous photo when she jumped into the water and splashed around for a bit, ruining Gold Butte's reflection in the pond.  She then proceeded to squawk at Sonny as if he was being the annoyance!
A fairly safe winter objective. Total Distance:  9.9 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  5 hours 15 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  747 metres

GPX Data