This scenic trail offers a number of outstanding vistas from rocky crags and cliffs overlooking a great deal of the drainage basin of the East Fork of Beech Creek and the John Day Valley. From the eastern trailhead, there are no major elevation changes on the east half of the trail. It deviates little from the contours, following the ridge line which divides the drainage basins of the main and Middle Forks of the John Day River for the first 1 1/2 miles. Starting in the middle going west, the trail descends rapidly from 6100 feet to the western trailhead through moderate to heavy timber stands. There are several relatively steep grades of up to 28%. There are no springs or streams along the length of the trail.
Route #1 – From the town of Prairie City, OR., travel approximately 3 miles west to the junction with County Road 18. Follow County Road 18 approximately 13 miles to the junction with Forest Road 279. Turn west on Forest Road 279 (look for sign at turnoff). Follow Forest Service Road 279 for approximately 3/4 mile to intersection with Forest Road 296. NOTE: The Nipple Butte trail sign is here, however, the trailhead is 400 yards west on Forest Service road 296 at the fence line.
Route #2 – From Mt. Vernon, OR., drive north on US Highway 395 to Forest Road 3940. Drive north east on Forest Road 3940 to the junction with Forest Service Road 3947 and turn east for 1/4 mile to Forest Service Road 459 and drive to the fence line.