Newberry Volcano has been erupting for thousands of years. The last eruption was 1,400 years ago but the volcano is considered to be still active today. Eruptions have caused cinder cones to form which look like small mountains. Some eruptions have left lava flows including obsidian flows. Many thousands of years ago an eruption caused the caldera which now contains two lakes, Paulina Lake and East Lake. The whole area was given national monument status in 1990.
When visiting Newberry Crater National Monument it is a good idea to stop at the Lava Lands Visitor Center at the beginning of your trip to get your bearings by looking at maps and to get a good idea of what you want to see and do.
You can be as active or inactive as you want to be when visiting Newberry Volcano in that you can see a lot by taking a few short walks or you can do more streneous things like climb Paulina Peak or hike around the caldera rim which is 21 miles long. You can also drive to the top of Paulina Peak if the climb is more than you want to tackle and see Newberry Crater spread out below as well as the Cascade Mountains and even as far as Washington State.
The visitor center has a book store, information on roads and hiking trails, an exhibit hall with hands-on activities for children, and public toilets.
There are two interpretive trails that you can walk at the visitor center. Trail of the Molten Land travels across the lava flow to the base of Lava Butte. It is paved but some places are too steep for wheel chairs. The Whispering Pines Trail travels around the edge of the lava flow through a young pine forest. These trails are open May through October.
To get to Lava Lands Visitor Center travel south from Bend on Highway 97 about 11 miles. Watch for signs.
This cave is located a little over a mile south of the visitor center on Highway 97. It is the longest lava tube cave in Oregon. At one point it is 50 feet wide and 58 feet high. The cave actually travels under Highway 47.
There are no guided tours - you are on your own and there is no electricity in the cave. It is advised that you take at least two flashlights with you when you enter the cave in case one burns out before you get out. Don't be fooled into thinking you only need one because you won't be going very far. Most people go much deeper into the cave than they thought they would because the cave is so fascinating.
When you enter the cave you are actually entering in the middle where the crust that forms the roof has collapsed. It looks like a large hole in the ground. You walk down 126 steps to the entrance. (There are handrails.) The section you will be exploring runs northwest for 5,211 feet. After about 1,500 feet the cave narrows and the ceiling drops to less than six feet. At 3,000 feet you will find what is called the Sand Garden. This area is roped off to protect the delicate shapes that have been formed by dripping water. The sand is actually volcanic ash that was deposited when Mount Mazama erupted and formed Crater Lake many miles to the south.
Along with two flash lights, you need to dress warm for your trip into the cave and take a bottle of water. The cave is open May through September from 9 am to 5 pm. In September it is closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Six thousand years ago a lava eruption from Newberry Volcano covered the ground around the forest in this area. It cooled and formed casts of the trees. You will see deep vertical holes and long horizontal cave like holes where there were fallen trees.
The trail is about a mile long and is paved. There are interpretive signs along the way. At certain times of the year there are patches of wildflowers in bloom.
From Bend take Highway 97 south for approximately 13 miles. Turn left on Lava Cast Forest Road. This is about three miles south of Lava Lands Visitor Center. This is Forest Service Road 9720. It is unpaved. Follow this road for about 8.5 miles and then turn on Forest Service Road 9720 950. The parking lot is about half a mile.
The Big Obsidian Flow was formed the last time Newberry Volcano erupted 1,400 years ago. The lava consisted mostly of silica and lacked mineral content and thus formed obsidian or glass when it cooled. Also present in this flow is both white and gray pumice. The obsidian is black and was used by the native indians to make cutting tools and arrowheads.
There is a trail loop that runs through the flow with interpretive signs that is about one mile long. The beginning of the trail is paved but then you have to climb some steps and from then on the trail is pumice.
This is a good site for photography but you cannot take rock samples home with you.
To get to the Big Obsidian Flow from Bend take Highway 97 south for about 24 miles. Turn left on the road where the signs say Paulina Lake and East Lake and then travel about 15 miles to the flow. This area is covered by snow in the winter months.
The picnic area at Benham Falls is a cool respite from hot dusty roads and sun-heated lava flows. The falls are really a very long series of rapids on the Deschutes River. To get there continue on for four miles on Forest Service Road 9720 from Lava Lands Visitor Center. It is a dirt road. The day use area doesn't have drinkable water so take your own refreshment. A vault toilet is available. Dogs must stay on a leash. There is a hiking and biking trail along the river.
The day use area at Paulina Falls is also a nice cool place for a picnic. The falls is a double falls and can be especially spectacular in spring and early summer when there is more water in the creek. Take your own water. There is a vault type toilet. To get there begin at Paulina Lake Lodge and hike down river half a mile.
To get to Paulina Lake travel from Bend south on Highway 97. Turn left at the Newberry Caldera sign between milepost 161 and 162.
For more things to do at Newberry Volcano in both summer and winter months see Paulina Lake. There are numerous hiking trails, campgrounds, and horseback riding trails at Newberry Volcano. Much of the area is covered in snow in the winter months and there are trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Cabins can be rented at Paulina Lake year round.