Newberry Caldera at Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Visit a Volcano the Size of Rhode Island
There’s a volcano the size of Rhode Island just south of Bend, and it’s tough to believe a lot of folks miss it. In November of 1990, Newberry National Volcanic Monument was created within the boundaries of Deschutes National Forest. Exploring the Newberry Crater (which is technically a caldera) is a wonderful way to learn about and see firsthand the violent, geological history that helped make Central Oregon the beautiful place it is. Right off Highway 97 just before you reach Lava Lands, you see Lave Butte, the source of the lava flows and jagged volcanic glass you see. Visiting Lava Lands Visitors Center is a perfect way to get oriented before you head to Newberry Crater. You can also hit Newberry Welcome Station for details and a map. While many visitors (and locals) miss out on this area, you can stop at Paulina Falls, an 80 foot double waterfall a short walk from the car. From there, you can take your pick of Paulina Lake (complete with a lodge, restaurant and watercraft rental) or East Lake for wading, splashing and views. And speaking of views, don’t miss out on the amazing view from the top if you drive all the way up. For extra points and memories, commit to a full, guided day and you check out the Paulina Plunge, a combination of mountain biking and waterfall adventuring.
The Peter Skene Ogden Trail (named for Paulina Lakes 1826 discoverer) parallels the creek as it ascends 8.5 mile to Paulina Lodge at Newberry Crater. The trail can be hiked, biked, or horsed the whole length, but a 3 mile stretch in the middle starting at McKay Camp is a spectacular shorter hike. Newberry National Monument has too many splendors to list here. Be sure to pick up a national park brochure at the visitor center or at the entrance to the monument.
TWO FULL DAYS OF FUN AT THE NEWBERRY VOLCANIC NATIONAL MONUMENT
There’s a volcano the size of Rhode Island just south of Bend, and it’s tough to believe a lot of folks miss it.
No trip to Bend, Oregon is complete without exploring the Newberry Crater. The area is teeming with ancient lava flows, jagged volcanic glass, rivers, lakes, caves, hot springs, waterfalls, and forests — and they’re all there waiting for you to explore them. The Newberry Crater area offers fun things to do in both summer and winter.
Want a sample itinerary? Here’s one way to tackle the Newberry National Volcanic Monument in two days:
8:45 a.m: Leave your hotel & grab breakfast to go. Swing by Sparrow Bakery on your way out of town. Travelers with a sweet tooth will dig their famous ocean rolls, or snag a bacon breakfast sandwich on a hand-rolled croissant.
9:15 a.m.: Arrive at the Lava Lands Visitor Center. Stop at the gate to flash your Northwest Forest Pass for admission, or buy a one-day or three-day Monument Pass for admittance. A shuttle bus will transport you to the top of Lava Butte, where you’ll take in sweeping views of the surrounding volcanic landscape. Round trip costs only $2.00 per person (exact change please). Shuttle runs every 20 minutes.
Snap a few photos and burn off some energy with the ¼ mile hike around the rim of the caldera. Back at the bottom, stop by the Visitor Center to check out the interpretive exhibits, a short film, and a giant map showing all the areas you’ll visit that day.
10 a.m.: Explore Lava River Cave. Rent a propane lantern at the entrance for $5, or bring your own headlamps and flashlights. Hoof it down 100 stairs into the darkness of the cave, then hike a mile each way exploring this massive lava tube that passes right under the highway. Be sure to pack a sweatshirt, since it’s a chilly 45-degrees in the cave. For a chance to explore some of Central Oregon’s other caves with a trained naturalist guide, do a Cave Tour with the folks from Wanderlust Tours.
11 a.m.: Drive to Paulina Falls. Emerge from the cave and drive 12.5 miles to Paulina Lake Road. Turn left there, and head 12.5 miles to the Newberry Welcome Station. This is a great spot to grab a map and ask any questions before continuing on to Paulina Falls. Admire this 80-foot waterfall from above and below, checking out the dramatic volcanic cliffs that surround it. Did you know the water is spilling over lava flow deposits created from sheets of hot ash and pumice that formed during eruptions more than 75,000 years ago?
Noon: Lunch at Paulina Lake Lodge. From Paulina Falls, drive just a couple miles to Paulina Lake. Stop at the lodge for a scrumptious lunch with breathtaking views of the lake. If you have little ones in tow, there’s a tasty kids’ menu, too!
1 p.m: Explore the lakes, drive the peak, or hike to the hot springs — take your pick! If you can’t get enough of the water, rent a kayak, canoe, standup paddleboard, or boat at Paulina Lake Lodge and set out to explore the crystal-clear water and towering mountain views. You can also visit nearby East Lake where there’s plenty of fishing, paddling, and sailing to be had.
If you’re in the mood for a drive, hop back in the car and ascend the 7,984-foot Newberry Volcano. From the top of Paulina Peak, you’ll get a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape. It’s open late-June through early October when the snow is clear.
If you’re up for hiking that’s a bit off the beaten path, start at the Little Crater Campground on the edge of Paulina Lake. From the day-use area, start hiking counter-clockwise around the lake. Roughly two miles in, you’ll spot an array of rustic hot springs bubbling along the lake shore. Most are fringed with logs, and it’s handy to have a bucket or shovel to scoop gravel from the shallow pools.
3:45: The Big Obsidian Flow. End your day with a visit to this expanse of more than 170-million cubic yards of glassy obsidian and pumice. A one-mile loop interpretive trail covers a scenic corner of it and offers stunning views of Hidden Lake.
5:30 p.m. Lava Cast Forest (optional). If you’ve still got energy and daylight to burn, head back toward Hwy 97 as though you’re driving back to Bend. Instead, take a nine-mile detour down an unimproved road to the Lava Cast Forest. It’s a 7,000-year-old basalt lava flow that enveloped a mature forest and took the shape of trees while it cooled. No visit to Bend is complete without seeing a few Oregon volcanoes and craters during your stay.
The Paulina Plunge. This full day of hiking, biking, splashing, and sliding is one of the most memorable outings you’ll experience during your Bend vacation. You’ll be transported from the Paulina Plunge headquarters to the starting point of the journey, where tour guides will set you up with bikes and helmets. From there, spend an entire fun-filled day mountain biking along scenic trails to six spectacular waterfalls where you’ll swim, splash, explore, and slide down natural rock waterslides in the river. Most of the biking is downhill, and this outing is great for families. Visit the Paulina Plunge website for more details.
Need more information about the Newberry National Volcanic Monument? This US Forest Service page should help.