Schonchin Butte Lookout Trail is a 1.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Tulelake, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and trail running and is accessible year-round.
Directions from Lava Beds Visitor Center: Travel northward 2.5 miles on the park road to the turnoff for Schonchin Butte. Turn right on the access road, which changes to dirt & gravel after a short distance. Follow the road 1.25 miles to the trailhead and park off the road.
A short hike -- under 1,5 miles round trip -- but with good rewards when you make it to the top: sweeping 360 degree views and, if you have time to visit with the ranger(s) at the lookout, a good opportunity to learn more about the area and the duties of those who man the lookout.
Considering the short distance of te hike, the close proximity to the Lava Beds Visitors Center, and the views from the top, this is a good option for anyone a bit pressed by time. The grade is, as expected when climbing a cinder cone, a bit sustained and will give a nice workout to older or slightly out of shape hikers. There are however 2 benches on the way up if you want to catch your breath while enjoying the views of the plateau and the lava flows.
The access is via a short and well maintained dirt road; any vehicle will make it to the small parking lot without problem. As others have mentioned, no facilities.
I went up in mid June and many wildflowers still provide a colorful counterpoint to the stark red rocks of the top, as the trail winds its way around the small summit crater. Many photo opportunities, of course.. or just a good invitation to sit down for a while and take in the beauty of this very special place.
Spectacular views. Can even see Mount Shasta in the distance.
Decided to do this hike as a quick stretch / vista view before a winter storm rolled in. It's a quick trail, medium for the incline grade but nothing particularly strenuous given how short it is. Views from the top were definitely worth the drive over as is the red rock trail its self. Just be sure to bring a shell for up top as the wind really rips up there. Maintained dirt road access, small parking lot, no facilities.
My family and I visited Lava Beds National Monument in July 2012. Its an interesting landscape. One hike that we did was Schonchin Butte trail. I chose this hike because I thought the views would be impressive and they were. The hike to the top wasn't too bad. If I remember correctly there were a couple benches on the way up. What made this hike even more memorable was meeting a ranger at the lookout on the summit. He shared his work with us and explained his tools. Being July 4th, he even had my daughter help him raise the US Flag on his lookout. What an experience!