The most interesting section of Newberry National Volcanic Monument
is around Paulina Lake
, at the center of Newberry Crater. This is reached by a good, paved road, usually snow-free from May to November, that leaves US 97 near La Pine
, 22 miles south of Bend, and is straight at first, through land of the Deschutes National Forest, then more winding as it climbs to the caldera rim.
After the entrance station (fees $5 per vehicle in 2020), the first site is Paulina Falls
, where Paulina Creek, the exit stream of the lake, splits into two channels which drop 80 feet over sheer basalt cliffs onto a group of jagged boulders. The cascade is accessed by a short trail through tall, damp, shady woodland; an area likely to be infested with mosquitoes during summer. Just past the falls, the road emerges from the forest at the southwest corner of Paulina Lake, beside the visitor center, a side road to Paulina Lake Lodge, and one of the six campgrounds, reflecting the fact that camping is the main recreational activity hereabouts, plus fishing (for kokanee salmon and brown trout) and boating.
Paulina Peak and the Lakes
The road continues another six miles, close to but out of sight of the south side of Paulina Lake, past the entrances to three more campgrounds, over a low ridge then all along the shore of East Lake, ending at the furthest campground (Cinder Hill). One other junction en route is opposite East Lake Resort, where unpaved Hwy 21 crosses the southeast corner of the monument and exits into the adjacent national forest. The two lakes themselves are not especially scenic, mostly bordered by flattish, wooded land; volcanic cliffs are found only in one short section on the west side of East Lake, though area this lies beyond a private inholding so is not easily reached. Surrounding the lakes are various cinder cones, craters and summits, of which by far the most prominent is Paulina Peak, south of Paulina Lake. The top of the mountain is reachable by trail, but also by the unpaved Paulina Peak Road, usually open (to vehicles less than 18 feet) between July and October. The summit provides 360° views over the volcanic landscapes below, extending as far as Mount Hood and Mount Shasta on clear days.
Big Obsidian Flow
Paulina Peak may be the most visible feature in this section of the national monument, but more unusual is the Big Obsidian Flow - over a mile of black volcanic glass mixed with grey pumice, from lava that solidified 1,300 years ago after pouring down a hillside just east of the peak. Both small scale ripples and large flow patterns are still very evident, and the lava remains almost completely unvegetated. A half mile partial loop path climbs a little way up the northern edge, starting at a parking area in the forest on the south side of the road. The Obsidian Flow Trail passes through a belt of woodland, ascends the side of the flow via steps, up to a flatter area, then winds through the irregular blocks, of which the pumice predominates but there are many areas of jet black obsidian, often crossed by very thin white bands. The start of the trail overlooks part of Lost Lake, a thin narrow pool curving along the base of the lava flow.
Little Crater Trail
The Obsidian Flow Trail is the only one clearly marked along the highway; most roadside notices are for campgrounds and other popular facilities. The remaining paths are rather less used, but a second good, short route is the Little Crater Trail
, which loops around the mostly forested rim of a small crater between the two lakes, crossing some open areas that give elevated views of the lakes, Paulina Peak and the Big Obsidian Flow.
This starts along the side road to Little Crater Campground, at the same place as the short Silica Trail
that traverses wooded land and connects with the Obsidian Flow route. Both are for hikers only, unlike the some of the longer trails which are also open to bikes and horses. The Little Crater Trail leads into the forest, climbing a little, past a volcanic outcrop to a junction, at the start of a one mile loop. The left fork ascends more, zig zagging up the hillside close to the lake, and reaches a second junction, with a connecting path from the north end of the campground. Near here is a treeless viewpoint of Paulina Lake, followed, after the last part of the climb up an exposed ridge, by a better overlook, where the panorama extends nearly all around, across Paulina Peak, Central Pumice Cone and East Lake. A deep crevasse through layered pumice is evidence of the volcanic origins of the Little Crater, which also has a neat circular shape though the trees prevent a good overall view. The trail starts to descend, heading south then west, past several vantage points of the Obsidian Flow, high enough to appreciate all the rippled patterns on its surface. The final portion drops down into the crater, soon arriving back at the start of the loop. The path seems not often hiked but is quite enjoyable, because of the long distance views rather than the immediate surroundings. The lightly wooded slopes harbor many summer wildflowers, and mosquitoes.