Stand in the middle of an ancient caldera, watch black glass glisten as you walk and float in a volcano at Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Located just south of Bend and Sunriver in Central Oregon, Newberry NVM is a geological wonderland for visitors in the Deschutes National Forest. With over 50,000 acres of lakes and lava flows, this is one spectacular park that you’ll want to pack your tent, hiking shoes and a good head lamp to explore.
During your stay, don’t miss these three unique trails:
1. Big Obsidian Flow Trail
The youngest lava flow in Oregon at only 1300 years old, the Big Obsidian Flow is a patch of gray and black volcanic glass that covers nearly 4 square miles of the National Monument. To get a close look at this unique landscape, walk the one-mile trail that climbs up and onto the lava flow. Look for slivers of obsidian shining in the sun that would have been used by local Native Americans for arrowheads and larger chunks that would have been shaved down to form other cutting tools and jewelry for trading (not to fight white-walkers, sorry Game of Thrones fans). Along the trail, seven interpretive signs discuss the geology, biology, history, and archaeology of the Big Obsidian Flow. Just make sure to look and leave-be, as collecting obsidian or other material from any site on Newberry National Volcanic Monument is illegal!
2. Lava River Cave
Strap on your headlamp or grab the lantern and travel underground to explore Newberry National Monument’s Lava River Cave. For this hike the name says it all. The trail, encapsulated by walls of cooled lava, flows beneath the earth for a mile. As you descend the 150 stairs to the mouth of the cave, the temperature drops around you to a constant 42 degrees. Watch your breath become visible in the sun before you enter the pitch black tube. Give yourself plenty of time to explore (1.5 hours recommended) for this out-and-back hike and remember to wear something warm.
3. Paulina Creek Falls
Falling 80-feet to a serene creek bed below, Paulina Creek Falls is located just a short distance from the Newberry NVM ranger station and the rim trail of Paulina Lake making this a great, short accessible hike. Follow the trail from the parking lot to the upper and lower viewpoints to photograph this double falls and the juxtaposition of the lush greenery and and harsh volcanic rock that is unearthed on either side.
Getting there: From Bend, travel 23.5 miles south on Hwy 97 and then look for signs for the two sections of the National Monument. Follow Country Road 21 for 12.9 miles to reach Paulina Lake.
Stay: There are six campgrounds within the National Monument including several that line the shorelines of the caldera. I stayed at Paulina Lake Campground, which featured a tent and RV sites, a boat ramp, and maintained restrooms. All the campgrounds are managed by HooDoo recreation and can be reserved during the summer months.
Eat: On your way to or from the National Monument, stop in Bend at 10 Barrel for a sampler tray of their delicious Oregon craft brews and wood-fire pizzas.