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Newberry Volcanic National Monument has lakes, lava flows and spectacular geologic features

It was lovely, warm September day when we travelled from our home town of Bend, Oregon 40 miles south to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, set in the spectacular Deschutes National Forest. The monument is huge, covering 54,000+ acres (about the size of Rhode Island) of lakes, lava flows, and spectacular geologic features. The highest point within the Monument is the summit Paulina Peak (7,985 ft.), which offers amazing, jaw-dropping views of the Cascades, Newberry Caldera and across the High Desert.

Newberry Volcano is the largest volcano in the Cascades volcanic arc. Unlike familiar cone-shaped Cascades volcanoes, Newberry was built into the shape of a broad shield by repeated eruptions over the past 400,000 years. About 75,000 years ago a major explosive eruption and collapse event created a large volcanic depression at its summit that now hosts two caldera lakes. Newberry last erupted about 1,300 years ago, and present-day hot springs and geologically young lava flows indicate that it is still an active volcano.

If you travel down South from Bend along Highway 97 toward the areas of the Newberry Volcanic National Monument there are a couple of places to stop and check out if you are interested that are part of the monument. Lava River Cave is a mile-long lava tube you can explore – they provide flashlights but I would plan to bring your own – a headlamp would be even better. The second place is the Lava Land Interpretive Center, where you can take a 5.5-mile hike around a large lava flow and also climb to the top of a cinder cone, Lava Butte, that gives great views across Central Oregon.

Things to do at Newberry Crater

1. DRIVE OR HIKE PAULINA PEAK

View of Paulina Lake from Paulina Peak
Pauline Peak, Newberry National Volcanic Monument
This VW van somehow made it to the top of Paulina Peak
Karen on the summit of Paulina Peak

2. BIG OBSIDIAN FLOW

Just a short drive, or longish hike, from the base of Paulina Peak, is the Big Obsidian Flow. At a mere 1300 years old, the Big Obsidian Flow is the youngest lava flow in Oregon. A one-mile interpretive trail climbs up and onto this impressive lava flow of obsidian (black glass) and pumice. The obsidian here is amazing – there are huge chunks of this. For those Game of Thrones fans out there obsidian is “dragon” glass – so if we ever get attacked by White Walkers guess where I am heading.

The trail itself is short but does require going-up some steps and then there are rocks and tight spaces to negotiate. This is not a place to walk your dog (the obsidian is like glass) or try if you are not very sure on your feet.

The Newberry Crater Trail also passes through this site, which connects to the Lost Lake Trail.

The Big Obsidian Flow
Obsidian chunks at the Big Obsidian Flow
There is a huge amout of obsidian here

3. CHILL OUT AT EAST LAKE & PAULINA LAKE

There are two lakes within the boundaries of the Newberry Monument. The smallest of these is East Lake, which has a lovely campsite – suitable for tents, trailers and RVs (there are size limitations so check it out). This would be a great place to spend a weekend camping – note to self! It has a nice beach and places to launch your boat.

East Lake

Our favourite lake though is Paulina. It is the larger of the two lakes and is, in our opinion, my more scenic. There is a larger area to launch boats, and you can also rent boats and kayaks for an hour or two – or the whole day. The Lodge at Paulina Lake has a small shop, cabins to rent and a large bar and restaurant to kick back in.

The beach is very cute and safe for the kiddos to paddle in.

The lodge at Paulina Lake
Chilling out at Paulina Lake

4. PAULINA CREEK

Just a short distance from Paulina Lake lodge is Paulina Creek Falls. You can walk from the lodge or there is a dedicated parking lot a bit closer. It is an easy downhill hike of less than half a mile from the parking lot down to the falls.  The waterfall is notable for its side-by-side drop of 80 feet that surrounds a small island at the edge of the cliff.

The falls at Paulina Creek
Downstream of Paulina Creek Falls
Looking back up at Paulina Falls

5. TAKE A HIKE

The Paulina Lake Loop Trail circumnavigates Paulina Lake. This 7.5-mile loop provides a great way to spend a half-day. There are many swimming spots along the way. 425 feet elevation gain. The Paulina Lake Loop Trail is found right across the street from the Paulina Visitor Center. However, you can pick up the trail at any point along the shores of the Lake.


If you are in for a hike on the longer and more challenging side, the Paulina Peak Trail is a great option. Starting at the visitor center, the trail heads south. After starting off flat, the trail starts to climb gradually and steadily increases in slope as you get to the 2-mile point. This incline continues until reaching the peak after 3 miles of hiking. The only downside is that after you get to the peak, you will have plenty of company (from those that drove up). The entire trail is 6.1 miles (round-trip). 1605 ft. elevation gain. The trail starts from the south side of the Paulina Visitor Center.

Planning your trip

Location:Highway 97, around 40 miles south of Bend
Hours: The visitor centres are open in the Summer months but closed in the winter. You can visit Paulina Peak, the lakes and waterfalls – although this could be challenging in the winter due to snow
Website:Website
Prices:There are day-fees in some of the areas. You can also use your Northwest Forest Pass

Best time to visit Newberry Crater

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is open year-round, but the roads to the Newberry Caldera are blocked to traffic for much of the year due to snow.  The roads are only open in mid-May through October.  The Lava Lands area is open in early May.

We highly recommend going in the summer when the area is fully open, flowers are in bloom and the trails have dried out a bit.

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