loader image

a
M

Visit Central Oregon logo in black.

Lava Lands Visitor Center a Central Oregon Geologic Gem

In the late 1960s NASA looked for a place to send astronauts who were training for a mission that would change the world. But before the mission could happen, NASA needed a place to mimic what they believed those astronauts would find on the surface of the moon. Because, after all, nobody had been there before so nobody really knew what the surface of the moon was like.

Enter the barren landscape that is Lava Lands in Central Oregon.

Located on the north flank of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, what is now Lava Lands was created about 7,000 years ago after a volcanic explosion of Lava Butte. A miles-wide sea of jagged lava rock was left behind creating a unique geological landscape that served as that training ground for moon-bound astronauts.

Today, the Lava Lands Visitor Center is the interpretive hub for the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which covers some 56,700 acres of lakes, lava flows, and spectacular geologic features near Bend and Sunriver.

Father and son look at lava rock at Lava Lands near Bend, Oregon

The Visitor Center is a great place to learn more about the violent history of the area with the help of U.S. Forest Service Rangers. Inside there’s a book store, 3D topographical map to help orient you to the area as well as daily films and exhibits on the geological history of the area. (It’s closed during the winter, but you can still explore Lava Lands. Just hang a left at the gate and park in the adjacent parking lot.)

To get an up close and personal look at the lava, walk the Trail of Molten Land and the Trail of Whispering Pines. It’s a short little 1 mile walk through the lava field and includes a few viewpoint areas with interpretive plaques. To get a bird’s eye look, you can walk or take one of the shuttles up to the top of Lava Butte where you can see just how far the lava field stretches – and where it abruptly turns back into a lush forest of Ponderosa pines.

Want a view of the lava field from above? Big Mountain Heli Tours offers a specific Lava Lands tour for you to see the area like never before.

There’s also a paved 5.5 mile bike path that connects Lava Lands with the resort community of Sunriver.

In 2015, Newberry celebrated 25 years as a national monument with events planned all summer long. Here’s some more info on hikes and activities at the monument and a video of Paulina Falls, located within the park.

Other stories

More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.

  • Camp Abbot’s Important Role During World War II
    Camp Abbot’s Important Role During World War II

    Sunriver is one of the region’s oldest and most beloved destination resorts. Since the late 1960s, Oregon families have made memories here, riding bikes to the general store, learning to golf on the courses and swimming in the river and the resort’s pools.

  • Central Oregon Hiking Trails
    Central Oregon Hiking Trails

    Head east on Highway 20 (Greenwood Avenue) to the Pilot Butte State Park. The parking area and trailhead are just east of the butte. Walk on either the nature trail or the paved road. The road is also for vehicle traffic, weather permitting. It is a wonderful viewpoint for the entire Bend area. This hiking trail is one of the most popular in Central Oregon.

  • Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway: Pull Off For a Central Oregon Adventure
    Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway: Pull Off For a Central Oregon Adventure

    The Cascade Lakes Scenic byway is one of the prettiest drives in the U.S. But it might be the most recreationally rich road you’ll ever drive too. From Bend southwest to the Highway 58 junction, the Oregon Route 372 cuts through 66 miles unique volcanic formations and geological beauty that offers everything that makes Central Oregon an outdoor lover’s paradise.

  • Central Oregon Winter Adventures
    Central Oregon Winter Adventures

    WHEN THE SNOW FLIES, CENTRAL OREGON SHINES. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE.

  • Casual Family Weekend in Sunriver
    Casual Family Weekend in Sunriver

    Imagine this: you’re riding your bike through a rolling meadow, the Cascade mountain range in the background, and the only sound is from the whir of a prop plane taking off against a crisp blue sky. Up ahead, your children pull carrots from their pockets and present them to a gathering of friendly horses in an adjacent pasture.

  • Adventures Abound Starting at Sunriver Resort
    Adventures Abound Starting at Sunriver Resort

    Sunriver is the type of place that takes your breath away no matter what season it is. During the summer you can hop on a horse for your very own wild wild west experience. The team at Sunriver Stables will make you feel comfortable on your ride, even if you’ve never saddled up before. Whether you’re in a tube or a kayak, floating down the Deschutes River is a relaxing activity that’s fun for the whole family.

  • Central Oregon’s Moonscape
    Central Oregon’s Moonscape

    Many who come to Central Oregon say it looks like nowhere else they’ve visited. Sure, there are the mountain vistas and the Ponderosa pines, the picturesque rivers and the deep blue lakes. But to many, the most astonishing aspect is the lunarscape — the lava rocks, cinder cones and lava tubes that dot the region, betraying its geologic history.

  • Winter Isn’t Only About Snow in Central Oregon
    Winter Isn’t Only About Snow in Central Oregon

    It’s true that when winter rolls around in Central Oregon, most people’s minds veer toward things to do in the snow. With Mt. Bachelor, Hoodoo, sno-parks and more, there’s plenty of options for folks to get out and play.

  • Pumpkin Patches + Petting Zoos = Fall Family Fun
    Pumpkin Patches + Petting Zoos = Fall Family Fun

    As soon as the first hint of autumn rolls around, my three kids ask on a regular basis when we can go to the pumpkin patch. This is not simply because they’re eager to gather Halloween décor. To my kids (all under the age of 12), fall means visiting the farm and getting all the animal petting, ropes course playing and barbecue eating they can squeeze into one afternoon.

  • Elk Lake Resort a Great Winter Getaway – And Getting There is Half the Fun
    Elk Lake Resort a Great Winter Getaway – And Getting There is Half the Fun

    There’s a couple of ways to look at the annual winter closure of Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway: You can see it as cutting off your recreational access beyond the gate until the snow melts in the spring.