Hiking Around Newberry Crater
As the sun melted into the western horizon its burning intensity degraded into a warm, pink glow and calming blue. The crisp evening air brought on the first shudder — more in contrast to the day’s heat than its own cool breath. A fantastical landscape of volcanic peaks and pillars, cinder cones and buttes, lava flows and lakes spread out before us. This land of lava was created by the eruption of Newberry Volcano nearly 6000 years ago.
The drive to the top of Paulina Peak, the highest point on Newberry’s crater rim, had measured up to our expectations. It was even worth the white-knuckle rounding of each skyward bend, where we offered up prayers that no one else had chosen that particular moment to descend the peak. Although our tendency was to linger, we knew we had to begin our descent before blackness settled in. A starry night and our warm camp waited.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
We were at Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This outstanding playground in central Oregon stretches from high in Newberry Crater to the Deschutes River corridor and welcomes discovery by foot, horse, mountain bike, car and boat. The monument spreads across some 87 square miles and joins together pine forests, lava plains, caves, cinder cones, obsidian flows, a waterfall and twin caldera lakes, which rival famous Crater Lake to the south in azure-clarity and origin.
The attractions are all easily accessed along and just off U.S. 97, between the towns of Bend (a year-round recreation center) and smaller La Pine. Monument visitors can select their own pace and level of physical exertion and adventure. The region boasts a network of more than a 100 miles of trail, including a long-distance route encircling the crater rim and several short, all-ability nature walks. Drive-to vistas are also in good supply.
Campers will find lake, forest and creek side sites, with convenient full-service campgrounds just outside the park. Lounging in the shadow of a pine within earshot of the lake’s lapping has its own appeal. Add a cool drink and good book and you just might take root.
For many, Newberry National Volcanic Monument (managed by the U.S. Forest Service)
remains unknown. It was back in 1990 that this unsung treasure quietly crossed the threshold from local attraction to one of national standing. Prior to receiving this federal protection, nature provided its safeguard — a rugged armor of crusted lava. Monument visitors find a wild, mostly natural beauty, but one where the recreation potential has been coaxed to near perfection.
Despite its relative present-day anonymity, this area was not unknown to the earliest peoples. Archaeological excavations have documented a nearly continuous Native American presence here, dating back 10,000 years. As the eruptions of Mount Mazama (which created Crater Lake) and Newberry Volcano altered the landscape, the area’s inhabitants adapted to their changing home. With obsidian for tools and trade, trout-filled lakes and streams and game in the forest, this land of fiery origin had much to offer then, and now.
For more on the center of activity in Newberry Country, click on the following link: