Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Day at Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Newberry National Volcanic Monument contains one of the hubs of volcanic activity in the area surrounding Bend, OR: Newberry Caldera. This potentially active shield volcano lies just 20 miles South of Bend, has a diameter of about 20 miles, and is thought to have first erupted about 500,000 years ago. The most recent activity dates to about 1,300 years ago when the Big Obsidian Flow erupted.

There are many interesting and informative volcanic sites within the National Monument including the Lava Lands Visitor Center, Lava River Cave and Lava Cast Forest; our focus on this day trip was the Newberry Caldera and the two lakes within the Caldera: Paulina and East Lake, as well as the Big Obsidian Flow.

Our first stop in the Monument was to view Paulina Falls. This falls has been eroding up canyon for decades and is impressive even at the end of summer. Viewing at the top of the falls (shown below) is right by the parking area and you can take a short hike to the bottom of the falls as well.

Next up we stopped at the visitor center just up the road and with the help of the park ranger decided to hike the Paulina Lake Loop counter clockwise. The ranger told us to keep our eyes open for a hot spring on the shore at the North end of the lake. The hike listed as 7.5 miles with elevation ranging from 6,330 to 6,560, but we only clocked 7 miles for the loop.

The trail followed the lake shore, starting out in beautiful mixed confer forest.

We passed by some old Odd Fellows summer cabins.

We also passed a couple of marshes.

For about a half mile the trail joined a road going through Little Crater Campground.
This lovely, no hook up campground had many large, mostly level water front sites!

You can see some RV's camped right on the lake on the left above.
Paulina Peak rises in the background.

The North shore has ancient lava flows at waters edge.

Lava explosion filled with colorful lichens.

We passed an obsidian flow, the shiny, glassy rock catching the sunlight as we passed.

At the NW corner of the lake the trail gained a couple hundred feet to skirt a cinder flow.
Across the lake we had a great view of Paulina Peak and the Big Obsidian Flow on its left.

At the high point of the trail we looked back and saw the hot springs we had forgotten about! We actually saw a person dumping cold water from the lake into the blocked off hot springs area. We didn't feel like going back down the trail, so we'll have to check out the hot spring some other time!

Looking back at the red cinder flow we went over.
The hot spring was at waters edge immediately east of the cinder flow.

Having finished the loop we decided to drive to the top of Paulina Peak. It's a washboardy, four mile, gravel road that leads to spectacular 360 degree views. We hiked to the top years ago and it's a beautiful forested trail that is quite steep.

View of Paulina Lake that we hiked around.
Our viewpoint is on the crater rim, and you can easily see the far edge of the crater beyond Paulina Lake.
You can even see the Three Sisters mountains at the top left of the photo.

Paulina Lake to the left, East Lake at top, Big Obsidian Flow front right,
crater rim beyond East Lake.

A nice view of the sweeping Big Obsidian Flow with the crater rim on the right.

Next we drove a couple miles further into the park to hike the half mile interpretive trail through the Big Obsidian Flow. We've done this trail before but it's so fascinating we had to do it again! This flow is the most recent in the area at about 1,300 hundred years old. It's made up of 90% pumice and 10% obsidian.

The flow stops abruptly against forest and a small lake.

The loop trail takes you right through the massive pumice and obsidian flow.

Pumice is full of air pockets making it very light!

The obsidian is actually glass and catches the light beautifully!

Here you can easily see the dark patches of obsidian mixed with the lighter pumice.

Newberry Caldera has many more trails and someday we hope to camp right on the lake at Little Crater Campground so we can see more of this fascinating National Monument.


  1. We really enjoyed our stay at Little Crater. Had one of the lakefront sites, and it was nice to be able to take a hike right from the campsite.

  2. It is amazing how much volcanic activity there was at one time out west. You see lava everywhere.

    You certainly had a great hike with lots of varying scenery. Those mountain lakes are beautiful. The color doesn't seem real but I know it is. You had an outstanding view:)

    I love the obsidian rock, wonderful shine! It isn't the light weight of the pumice!! Come just the Hans is really that strong!!

  3. We made a stop at the Lava Lands visitor center today and then drove to the top of the Lava Butte Cinder Cone. It was awesome and now we have to go visit Paulina Lake. Looks like a very cool place -thanks for the photos!

  4. The Newberry Caldera looks similar to "The Glass Mountain" near Lava Beds National Park in CA. I would recommend to check it out for it seems you are close to the area. I have a post about it too.
    Those rocks are really amazing. Nature is amazing!

  5. Looks like beautiful country. Your photos of Paulina Lake remind me of Minnesota. What device do you use to track you hiking distance?

    1. We had been using EndoMondo but it was adding mileage to the total so we just switched to RunKeeper. So far we are happy with it.