Two prominent peaks Glass Butte and Little Glass Butte in the Oregon high desert, just 57 miles west of Burns and 78 miles east of Bend, are known for its wide diversity of obsidian. A favorite destination for rock hounds, those two sites are located approximately half-a-mile away from each other. Characterized by volcanic mountains and rolling hills covered by sagebrush, the 6,000-acre area has been designed a Free Public Use Area.
Glass Buttes and adjacent hills are located off of the milepost 77 of US route 20 highway and the area is characterized by volcanic mountains and rolling hills covered by sagebrush. Glass Butte is the largest deposits of the high-quality obsidian in the world.
For rock-hounding purposes, the area is mostly known for its obsidian. Obsidian is formed when basalt gets cooled down rapidly and doesn’t get a chance to crystallize and therefore turns into a glass of a sort. Hills in the area are full of obsidian and Glass Butte and Little Glass Butte are considered the best places to collect the mineral in Oregon. If you take your time looking for the obsidian on the rolling hills in the area, you can find some pretty fine examples of this mineral.
Most obsidian is black but in the Glass Buttes area you can find a surprising variety. Types of obsidian you can collect here include, but not limited to black, red fire, flame, mahogany, midnight lace, sheens including gold, silver, and rainbow. It's no surprise that Glass Butte is the best place in Oregon to find high-quality obsidian. Besides, this place is considered the largest obsidian deposits in the world.
No permits are required to collect "reasonable" daily amount of minerals for personal use. A trunk or partial truck load and less than 250 pounds.
The best season for rockhounding would be from spring to fall. The list of tools you might need to get the best results include a shovel, hammer, pick, pry bar and gad. Because obsidian is a lava glass, it is very sharp. Native Americans used this material for making arrowheads, spear points, and cutting tools.
There is plenty of material laying around you can collect by simply picking it up, but you can also use tools to get obsidian from a variety of pits in the area.
During the rainy season, the area becomes very muddy so high clearance 4x4 vehicle is recommended.
Caution. Obsidian is extremely SHARP. Sharp glass splinters can fly trough the air when cleaving or working an obsidian pit. To avoid severe eye damage, use safety glasses with side protection. Wear protective gloves. Also, tire fixing kit and\or spare tire might be a good idea in case you drive over an exceptionally sharp piece of mineral.
Chickahominy Reservoir has camping/RV areas while primitive camping is available on-site.
Glass Butte and Little Glass Butte | General Description
Location: Glass Buttes
Activities: Rockhounding, hiking, camping
Accommodations: Camping is not prohibited
Distance from the parking: Short
Road access: A high-clearance vehicle is recommended
Day-use fees: None
Popularity: Low to Moderate
Elevation: 4,900-6,100 ft (1,494-1,829 m)
Glass Butte is located:
- 57 miles west of Burns
- 78 miles southeast of Bend
- 230 miles southeast of Portland.
From Highway US-20,
- Travel east from Bend or west from Burns on US-20 to milepost 77
- Turn south onto a dirt road at milepost 77
- Continue to one of the digging sites.
Phone (Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce): 541-447-6304
Phone (BLM): 541-416-6700
Information about public rockhounding sites is subject to change at any time, and Oregon Discovery team cannot guarantee that is either current or correct. Be aware that there are some mine claims and private lands near the public collecting areas. Determining the land status and minerals' collection rules at the site is your primary responsibility. Obey any No Trespassing signs.