Rockhounding Hampton Butte: A First Time Visitor’s Guide

Hampton Butte should be on every rockhounder’s Oregon bucket list to visit.

It is remote place and the weather can be harsh, so you’ll want to make preparations before you set out.

In this article, we’ll give you the basics of what you need to know for rockhounding Hampton Butte successfully.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.

What Can Rockhounds Find At Hampton Butte?

Hampton Butte is well known for its beautiful green petrified wood.

You can also find other colors of petrified wood (with reds, oranges, black), but the green is the star of his show.

Collectors also find jasper, agates, calcite, and leaf fossils.

How To Get to Hampton Butte?

Hampton Butte is squarely in central Oregon, more than 200 miles south and east of Portland, Oregon.

From Portland, you are looking at driving 4-5 hours if you make the trip without stopping. However, if you are starting off from Bend, Oregon, you are looking at more like a 1 to 1.5 hour drive.

From Bend, you’ll drive east on highway 20 until you pass mile post 52. Between milepost 52 and 53, you’ll see a Van Lake Road, which is a road that goes north off of highway 20 (meaning a left turn if you are traveling east).

Once you leave highway 20, you’ll drive another 10-11 miles to Price-Twelve Mile road. Turn right, and then drive another 2 miles or so.

Price Rd is pretty flat and straight for those two miles, but then drops down into a drainage and back up again.

Once you come back up out of the drainage, you’ll be less than a quarter mile away from the areas where most people camp up there.

Assuming that it isn’t snowing, most vehicles (including vans) should be able to make it up there without issue.

Where To Dig For Petrified Wood at Hampton Butte

The collecting area at Hampton Butte is pretty much all over, within a quarter mile of that camping around and the road to either and all sides.

The area is surrounded by fence, with private property on the other side. So if you come to a fence, don’t hop it to continue your hunt.

We’ve seen people find great pieces of petrified wood just steps from their tents, while others range further away from the more established collection areas to the areas where few people wander.

The further away from the road you get, the more likely you are to find something on the surface without having to dig.

You can tell where the more established collection areas are by the holes and piles of discarded dirt/rock.

It used to be that you could find petrified wood all over the surface at Hampton Butte.

But now that it has been visited a lot, you’ll have to go under the surface.

In general, the best advice for digging for petrified wood is to dig down between 1.3 feet, and then instead of digging down further, you dig to the sides in all directions.

You can pick up where someone left off in their hole, or you can start a new one.

Other folks walk around their chosen collection site (or their camp site) with a spade and just thunk it hard into the ground as they walk, listening for the sound of the blade hitting something too hard to be well packed dirt.

If you aren’t having any luck finding a spot to dig, then try digging through the cast off piles around your collection area.

Given the dusty nature of the sites, a lot of good petrified wood pieces (and jasper) get missed or overlooked because people are so focused on trying to find a really large piece of petrified wood.

Tools or Supplies You’ll need at Hampton Butte

At Hampton Butte, during most times of the year, it is going to be really dry and pretty hot. The first thing you’ll want to make sure you have enough of is water for this trip, more than anything else.

Because of its remoteness, having car trouble could mean real disaster if you don’t have enough water while you try and get help.

You’ll also want to plan for heavy work, rather than for hiking around and looking for treasure.

We’d bring:

  • Extra food and water
  • Long pants, long light shirt, and a broad brimmed hat
  • Work boots or tough shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Goggles or protective glasses
  • Knee pads or something to kneel on or sit on
  • Work gloves
  • Long handled spade
  • Geologists pick or hammer
  • Spray bottle and a scrub brush (to clean the dirt off any find to try and figure out what you have)

There is a lot of scrub brush and juniper trees in this area that you’ll be walking through.

While there shouldn’t be much in the way of mosquitos during the heat of the day, they can be randomly really aggressive in the morning and evening.

Ticks are also pretty common out here, so you should also consider throwing in your favorite mosquito/tick repellent in with your gear.

The ticks/mosquitos are also another reason why it would make sense to cover up your arms and legs as you work if possible.

Rock Collection Rules/Limits at Hampton Butte

Hampton Butte is managed by the BLM, thus BLM rock collecting rules apply.

There’s no fee to collect for personal use up to 25 pounds per day, with a maximum of 250 pounds per year. This limits apply to minerals, common invertebrate fossils, gemstones, and petrified wood.

You cannot use motorized or heavy equipment, or dynamite. Basically, don’t do anything damaging to the land in your hunt for petrified wood and minerals.

You cannot collect vertebrate fossils, arrowheads, potsherds, or anything else archaeological on this site without a permit.

Other Notes About Visiting Hampton Butte

There are no services out there (like bathrooms), and mobile data/wi-fi/cell service is likely to be non-existent.

Come prepared with a map or GPS, and all of the supplies you’d generally have in the car in the event that you were to get unexpectedly lost or stuck in the wilderness.

This is a really dusty area, and working in the ground to find the specimens kicks up a lot more dust. People who are sensitive to dust should consider wearing a bandanna or mask over their nose and mouth.

You’ll see that people dig and leave their holes everywhere. Do us all a favor and fill in any holes that you dig.

In the fall/winter/early spring, this area can also be harsh, but snowy, windy/stormy instead of blazingly hot. It can snow with little warning if you aren’t keeping an eye on the weather forecast.

If you are going to make the trip all the way out to Hampton Butte, you might as well head over to Glass Butte before you head back to Portland or Bend.

It is about an hour from Hampton Butte, because you have to drive back to highway 20, go east some more, and then go south and some more forest roads. .

But if you get skunked at Hampton Butte, Glass Butte is sure to put the smile back on your face because the sharp and beautiful obsidian is just everywhere.

All over the ground. You can dig a little and find really large pieces.

Wrap Up

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Looking for other places to hunt for rocks in Oregon? Here’s our favorite places in Oregon to visit to collect rocks.