It’s hard to believe that before November of 1990, the volcanic features that make up Newberry National Volcanic Monument weren’t protected. If it wasn’t for a group of concerned Central Oregonians, the monument would have never existed.
“In the late 80s, at the time, the collaborative process we see today for land-use planning just wasn’t common. The success of that effort locally really helped it move through Washington more quickly to become a National Monument,” said Scott McBride, the monument manager.
Now, more than 54,000-acres are protected including one of the most visible and popular attractions — Lava Butte, a cinder cone found west of Highway 97 halfway between Bend and Sunriver, Oregon. Lava Butte is a great destination due to several unique features: it’s near an active lookout, the hike is short, and there are views of the Cascades and Newberry Volcano.
However, the heart of the monument is Newberry Volcano. In the caldera, there’s two lakes, Paulina Lake and East Lake. There’s endless opportunities for fun on the water, camping, hiking and much more. “You can bring a horse, a sailboat, a fishing boat, a bike, or whatever mode you prefer and be perfectly happy with finding a place to recreate, ” said McBride.
Hiking Around Newberry National Volcanic Monument
If you’re a hiking and a history buff, make sure to explore the Big Obsidian Flow trail, a 0.6 mile loop that goes through (yep, you guessed it) obsidian flow right below Paulina Peak. Believe it or not, at 1,300 years old, it’s the youngest lava flow in Oregon and it was used to test astronaut suits!
“The belief was that testing the mobility of the suit on the Obsidian Flow would mimic the conditions that the moon would present,” said McBride.“Whether it played out that way – I don’t know, but the story is a rock from Newberry was brought and left on the moon.”
Another part of the monument might make you feel like you’re on another planet. “Lava River Cave is approximately a mile-long underground world that’s about just a mile and a half from the visitor center,” said McBride. “It’s a great visit on a hot day – it stays about 42 degrees in the cave.” Opening for the season in May (not to be missed), guests have the opportunity to hike two miles through Lava River Cave.
A unique feature of the volcanic monument Paulina Falls is a stunner no matter what the weather is. It’s incredibly accessible; you can actually hear the roar of the twin falls from the parking lot. “A lot of visitors will take the short walk which looks down on the twin falls (plunging about 80 feet over a volcanic cliff), but if you walk an extra ¼ mile down, you can get a great perspective,” said McBride. It’s truly a view even locals still find breathtaking.
Other Summer Activities Around Newberry Crater
The ways in which you can explore Newberry Volcanic National Monument do not end with hiking! Spend a night camping at Newberry Crater, under the stars, surrounded by unique geological formations. There are six different Forest Service campgrounds to choose from, such as Little Crater Campground, Cinder Hill Campground, East Lake Campground, and Paulina Lake Campground. All of the campgrounds offer shoreline camping, boat ramps, and bathrooms.
See more of Newberry Crater by checking out the mountain bike trails. Tackle the challenging 21-mile Crater Rim Trail, or go for an easy five mile ride along Paulina Creek Road. There are also several options for bike rentals, tours, and shuttles in Bend and Central Oregon if you can’t travel with your gear.
Looking to explore more? Both Paulina Lake and East Lake, that are located within Newberry Crater, offer plenty of summer activities. There are 11 designated areas for motorized boating as well as non motorized boating. Spend the day paddle boarding or hang out on a boat to see the sights. Trout and Salmon call both of these lakes home, making them a great place to fish as well. There are also five designated places to swim.
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
The Scenic Waterfalls in Central Oregon
Is there anything more satisfying—anything more awe-inspiring—than gazing upon a thundering waterfall, its raging waters tumbling over ancient rock walls? Does it get any better than seeing a waterfall reach full boil in the midst of an otherwise quiet river as it crashes through a rock-lined canyon?
Central Oregon Mountain Bike Trail Guide
The Central Oregon mountain bike scene is 300 miles of diverse singletrack through high alpine forests and sagebrush dotted deserts from Madras to La Pine, Sisters to Prineville. Bulletin newspaper reporter Mark Morical has ridden just about every one of the trails you’ll find on any mountain bike trail map – and he’s written about his experience.
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.
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.
Outward Bound in the City: Central Oregon’s 5 Best Urban Hikes
Hiking in Central Oregon can take you deep into the wilderness, far away from worry and stress. But sometimes all you need is a quick break from reality…just a half hour or so outside in nature, on a trail, alone with your thoughts (or with your dog, husband and two kids.) There are hundreds of hikes and trails available in and around Bend, Oregon and Sunriver, Oregon. These “Urban Hikes” are the perfect remedy to slow down our all-too-busy lives.
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.
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.
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
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.
Scenic Bikeways Showcase Central Oregon’s Backroad Beauty
Oregon’s official scenic bikeways are the first of their kind in the U.S – and Central Oregon is home to 6 of the state’s 11 most beautiful bike routes. An absolute summer must for road cyclists are riding the best of the best – our scenic bikeways. Every rider can find a ride to suit their style and mood, from family-friendly to adventurous.