Oregon State Parks near Bend, Oregon
September 27, 20237 minute read
Did you know there’s a volcano the size of Rhode Island south of Bend? And it’s tough to believe a lot of folks miss it. Newberry Crater National Monument is a geological and recreational wonderland just a short drive from Bend. It encompasses more than 54,000 acres and boasts a landscape embellished with volcanoes, ancient lava flows, dazzling lakes, and a labyrinth of underground caverns.
The area not only features unique geology but also loads of outdoor activities. Enjoy hiking through underground lava tubes or along glassy lava flows. Or spend your afternoon standup paddle boarding, fly fishing, or kayaking at Paulina Lake. When you’re ready to refuel with a beverage and a burger, stop by a lakeside resort that sits in a volcanic crater.
The geological history of Newberry Crater National Monument started with the formation of the Newberry Volcano, a shield volcano, over 600,000 years ago. Around 75,000 years ago, a sizeable eruption led to the creation of the Newberry Caldera, a massive crater. The region features expansive lava flows, including lava tube caves like the Lava River Cave. Glacial forces during the last ice age also left their mark, creating valleys and lakes within the caldera, such as Paulina Lake and East Lake. The area’s hot springs are evidence of its ongoing geothermal activity.
In 1990, the area officially became a national monument. It lies within the Deschutes National Forest and is a short 20 to 40-minute drive from Bend. Newberry Crater National Monument is divided into three distinct regions: the Lava Cast Forest, the Lava Lands, and the Newberry Caldera. The latter two are the most popular.
If it’s your first visit, start by stopping by the Lava Lands Visitor Center to get the inside scoop. In the summer, you can take a shuttle bus to the top of Lava Butte, where you’ll take in sweeping views of the surrounding volcanic landscape. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes. 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 to visit.
A Northwest Forest Pass is required to access all three areas. You can buy a day pass or an annual at the Newberry Caldera entrance, Lava Lands entrance, or the Bend Visitor Center.
Keep in mind that the availability of some activities and services may vary seasonally. Early October is when the visitor center, tours, and certain access roads close due to snow. Starting in early May, things will reopen. It’s a good idea to check the monument’s website for up-to-date information on access and conditions before planning your visit.
Ready to explore Newberry Crater National Monument? Great! Get ready to discover incredible geology, diverse wildlife, and epic outdoor adventures. And no matter what you do, always practice Leave No Trace to help protect and preserve this special place.
Below are some favorite activities at Newberry Crater National Monument.
Although Newberry is best known as a summer destination, it can also be a fantastic place to visit in the winter. Thirty miles from Bend, 10 Mile Sno-Park is a gateway to the winter splendor of Newberry Caldera. Explore the snow-covered landscape on designated nordic and snowshoe trails and snowmobile routes. Start with a 3-mile trek to the breathtaking frozen beauty of Paulina Falls. After Paulina Falls, head to Paulina Lake Lodge for a warm lunch by the fire and stunning views of the lake and caldera. Then burn off those hot chocolate calories with a 3-mile journey back to 10 Mile Sno-Park.
Experience Newberry Crater National Monument on foot. Here are a few favorite hikes, ranging from easy to challenging. Dogs are allowed on most trails in the monument, but must be on a leash. Dogs are not allowed in Lava River Cave.
Paulina Falls is an impressive 80-foot set of twin waterfalls located in the Newberry Caldera area. The falls are surrounded by towering volcanic cliffs that were formed by eruptions over 75,000 years ago. The upper viewpoint of the falls is a short ¼ mile walk from the parking lot. From there, you can get a great view of the falls and the surrounding cliffs. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike down to the lower viewpoint for a closer look.
The Lava Cast Forest is an easy 1-mile loop trail located in the Lava Cast area, about 15 miles south of Bend. The trail winds through a forest of hardened lava casts, which are the remains of trees that were engulfed by lava flows 7,000 years ago. The trail is mellow and paved, making it accessible for all ages and abilities.
The Big Obsidian Flow Trail is a moderate 1-mile loop trail located in the Newberry Caldera area. The trail winds through a field of shiny black obsidian, which is a type of volcanic glass. The obsidian was formed when a lava flow erupted from Paulina Peak 1,300 years ago. The trail is easy and mostly flat, making it a great option for families and hikers of all levels. There are interpretive signs along the trail that explain the local geology and history.
The Lava River Cave trail is a moderate mile-long lava tube located in the Lava Lands area. Enjoy a two-mile round-trip hike under the earth’s surface as you explore the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon. Don’t forget a warm jacket and a flashlight for this underground adventure. And watch your head. Reservations are required from May to September to enter the Lava River Cave. Tickets go on sale at 7 a.m. PST each day.
The Paulina Peak Trail is a difficult 6.1-mile out-and-back trail located in the Newberry Caldera area. The trail climbs to the summit of Paulina Peak, the highest point in the monument at 7,984 feet. The panoramic views from the summit are incredible! Take in the Cascade Range, the Three Sisters, and the surrounding lakes and forests. If you’re not up for the hike, you can also take a forest road drive to the peak.
East Lake and Paulina Lake, two massive lakes within the Newberry Caldera, are a haven for water sports. Fishing, boating, swimming, or simply soaking up the sun on a warm beach are perfect activities at these pristine alpine lakes. East Lake Resort and Paulina Lake Resort offer boat rentals, including fishing boats, pontoons, canoes, and kayaks. Motorized boats are allowed, but must follow the 10 mph speed limit. Whether you’re an avid angler casting your line for trophy-sized trout, a kayaker exploring the peaceful coves, or simply a sun-seeker lounging on the sandy shores, there’s an activity for everyone to enjoy.
If you’re itching to spend the night in nature with a blanket of stars above, there are six campgrounds to choose from, all of which are found around East and Paulina Lake. Four of these campgrounds, Cinder Hill, East Lake, Little Crater, and Paulina Lake Campground are run by the Forest Service and do offer reservations through Recreation.gov. East Lake Resort and Paulina Lake Resort offer camping, or if you prefer some creature comforts, rustic and cozy to spacious and fully equipped cabins are available. Because of the summertime popularity, making camping or cabin reservations is highly recommended.
Wildlife viewing at Newberry Crater National Monument is an enticing experience for nature enthusiasts. You can spot mammals such as mule deer, elk, coyotes, and loads of cute little chipmunks and squirrels foraging for food. But please, do not feed them! Keep your eyes and ears peeled for majestic bald eagles, hawks, and osprey stealthily hunting for trout, their high-pitched cries filling the air as they soar overhead. And as the sun sets, a different kind of activity unfolds. Listen for the distinctive sound of wings whizzing by, belonging to the big brown bats, little brown bats, and the western pipistrelle.
If you’re craving a family-friendly adventure that includes a full day of hiking, biking, splashing, and sliding, here it is: the Paulina Plunge! 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 (mostly downhill) along scenic trails to six spectacular waterfalls where you’ll swim, splash, explore, and slide down natural rock waterslides in the river.