Newberry Crater: Ancient Attraction is an Activity Hub

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

People hike on Lava Butte

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.

Two people stand up paddle board within Newberry Volcanic National Monument.

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.

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