Central Oregon Hiking Newberry Crater Oregon Trip report

Paulina Lake via Ten Mile Sno-Park

The year of rearranging continued to present challenges as we prepared for our final week of vacation. Originally planned for mid-August we had rescheduled a planned trip to Steens Mountain due to work considerations. An unusually cold and wet weather system due to arrive from the Gulf of Alaska the first Sunday night of our vacation derailed those plans. In fact it ended any thoughts of attempting to backpack as the entire week called for rain or snow showers, depending on elevation, everywhere we looked. At the last minute we decided to dial up a group of hikes in the southern Blue Mountains near Sumpter, OR.

The disappointment of having to change our plans once again this year was tempered by the prospect of the wet weather helping to put out the numerous wildfires burning in the Pacific Northwest.

We had planned to stay in Bend on our way to Steens Mountain and visit Heather’s parents and it made sense to do the same on the way to Sumpter so the only hike planned for the week to survive the rearranging was a visit to Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This hike would allow us to fill in some blanks along both Paulina Creek and Paulina Lake left from two previous hikes. (Paulina Creek and Paulina Peak)

On our hike up Paulina Creek from the Peter Skene Ogden Trailhead we had turned around after approximately 5.5 miles at footbridge over Paulina Creek. After looking at some maps it appeared that this footbridge was near the Ten Mile Sno-Park. Our plan this time was to start at the sno-park and hike over to the bridge and take the Peter Skene Ogden Trail up past Paulina Falls to Paulina Lake, loop around the lake, then return down the creek for a total of about 14.5 miles.

The drive from Salem to Bend was extremely smokey but fortunately for us the conditions inside the Newberry Caldera were much better, just a general haze instead of the heavy smoke we’d passed through. After parking at the sno-park we decided to follow the Ponderosa Trail hoping it would take us to the footbridge.

In hindsight we should have printed out a copy of a nordic trails map of the area especially given that they do not show up on the GPS map nor were they included in our guidebook’s map. The trail was easy enough to follow, there was a visible path as well as blue diamond markers on the trees to mark the way.

We quickly realized we were heading up the creek away from the footbridge but we decided to just keep going since we knew from the trail sign that the Ponderosa Trail went to Paulina Lake. We could take this up to the lake then come down on the trail we’d intended to come up on after finishing the lake loop.

When we came to a snowmobile track (Road 500) we followed it right for about four tenths of a mile before veering left back onto the nordic trail towards the sound of Paulina Creek.


Being a nordic trail the Ponderosa Trail had a good deal of blowdown but it was mostly lodgepole pine trees which we easily stepped over.

The trail never approached the creek and offered almost no views of the water. A little over 2.5 miles from the sno-park we arrived at a signed trail to a viewpoint below Paulina Creek Falls.



After visiting the lower viewpoint we continued on to the upper viewpoint which had been our turnaround point during our Paulina Peak hike.

We headed upstream a little over a quarter mile to the start of the Paulina Lake Loop just after crossing the road to the Paulina Lake Lodge.


We started around the lake in a counter-clockwise direction which was the same direction we’d gone during our Paulina Peak hike. We passed some familiar scenery including a small rocky peninsula and a marshy area filled with birds and a view of Paulina Peak.








After 2.4 miles on the loop we arrived at the boat ramp near Little Crater Campground.


On our previous visit we had taken the Silica Trail from the parking area here. This time we could either follow the paved road to the campground on the loop trial or we could climb up and over Little Crater, a cinder cone. Even though I had planned on taking the Little Crater Trail my 14.5 mile estimate had not taken into consideration that this route would add a little over a mile to the hike.

The Little Crater Trail climbed up past an interesting rock outcrop to a junction.



At the junction we went right passing around the crater and gaining increasingly impressive views of the Newberry Caldera.

The first views were of the Big Obsidian Flow and Paulina Peak.



Paulina Lake was soon visible to the west and East Lake came partially into view to the east behind the Central Pumice Cone.


After passing over the summit the trail descended to another junction where we turned right following a pointer for Little Crater Campground.

We picked up the loop trail just to the north of the campground.

The next section of the loop trail had some nice, albeit hazy, views of Paulina Peak and the marina at the lodge way across the lake.


The trail hugged the lake shore as it passed by the inter lake obsidian flow.




Beyond the lava flow, and 1.2 miles from Little Crater Campground, we came to a side trail down to some hot springs along the lake shore.


Our timing was good as two groups of hikers were just leaving as we arrived. We decided to take off our shoes and socks and soak our feet in one of the pools.



The water was amazing. It was almost exactly the temperature of a nice hot bath even with a little water from the lake lapping in. We sat for a while enjoying the view (and a large dragonfly) before continuing on.


We finally tore ourselves away from the hot springs and continued on. From the springs the trail climbed above the lake as it traversed a cinder hillside



The trail then descended back near the lake shore to North Cove before entering a little thicker forest.

We had seen been seeing hikers off and on all day and as we passed through the trees along this stretch I thought I spotted a little black dog along the side of the trail. Then a second small black animal emerged from the brush on the other side of the trail and I realized they weren’t small dogs they were little bear cubs! Heather spotted the second cub as I was simultaneously announcing bear and trying to get the camera ready. I once again failed to get a photo though as we were too busy talking loudly and trying to locate mama bear. We never did spot her but she had to be close by given how small the cubs were. We paused long enough to give the bears plenty of time to leave the area before continuing.

Approximately 2.2 miles from the hot springs we turned uphill following a trail sign and passed above the Paulina Lake Lodge before descending after a quarter mile to a junction with the Peter Skene Ogden Trail.


We turned down this trail which passed another viewpoint of Paulina Creek Falls after a quarter mile.

Unlike the Ponderosa Trail this trail offered many glimpses of Paulina Creek. Much like the lower section of the creek we had hiked along previously there were many small cascades to admire along the way.




Three miles beyond the viewpoint we arrived at the footbridge we had been looking for that morning. A trail sign indicated that it was 1/8 mile to Road 500 and 3/4 to the sno-park.

The view from the bridge upstream was now obscured by a fallen tree.
Paulina Creek


We crossed the bridge and passed a view of the waterfall just downstream from it.

We briefly followed Road 500 but then veered right onto what appeared to be a mountain bike trail


We followed the mountain bike trail for half a mile before arriving at a dirt road which we recognized from that morning. We turned right on the road and followed it back to the sno-park which was only a tenth of a mile away.

The end result of the hike was a 15.8 mile loop on what turned out to be a very pleasant day. It was hard to imagine that the area would likely be seeing snow in the next 48-72 hours.

It was a great start to our vacation with lots of wildlife, decent views despite the haze, and a wonderful soak in the hot springs. We were anxious to see what the next 6 days of hiking would bring. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Paulina Lake

Central Oregon Hiking Newberry Crater Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Paulina Peak

With the frequency of our hikes down during our off-season we’ve decided to go back and write up some of our outings from before we started this blog. We’re hoping to have Throwback Thursday posts during those weeks that we don’t have a new trip report to write. We’ll start with hikes that we haven’t repeated since starting the blog and, at least to begin with, are not in our plans to be hiked again in the foreseeable future. That is not to say that they are not worthwhile hikes, they all are. In our attempt to take as many different trails as possible we rarely repeat hikes, and when we do it has typically been because we missed something the first time such as a view or blooming wildflowers.

Please keep in mind that we completed all of the throwback hikes at least 4 years ago so before visiting any of the trails be sure to check with the managing agency on their current condition and availability.

With that disclaimer we’d like to start off with one of the most diverse hikes in terms of scenery that we’ve taken – Paulina Peak in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This hike was done on 8/6/2011 during a week long vacation in Central Oregon.

There are a number of hiking options in the monument and our visit consisted of a loop using several different trails allowing us to visit several different worthwhile goals. We began our hike by parking at the Big Obsidian Flow Trailhead.
Big Obsidian Flow

Big Obsidian Flow Amphitheater sign at the trailhead

We started with the .8 mile interpretive Big Obsidian Trail which took us into the obsidian flow passing numerous information signs along the way.
Interpretive sign at the Big Obsidian Flow


Big Obsidian Flow

In addition to the interpretive signs and cool rock formations the trail offers views of Paulina Peak, Paulina Lake, and Lost Lake.
Paulina Peak from the Big Obsidian Flow Trail

Paulina Lake
Paulina Lake with Mt. Bachelor and the South Sister beyond.

Lost Lake

A great option for kids this proved to be perfect warm up for the longer loop we had planned. After returning to the parking area we followed the Silica Trail for 100 yards to a junction with the Newberry Crater Trail where we turned right.
Newberry Crater Trail sign

We followed this trail for another half mile to the Lost Lake Trail where we once again turned right following a pointer for the Crater Rim Trail.
Lost Lake Trail sign

The Lost Lake Trail passed near Lost Lake but not close enough to get a look although occasional hints of sulfur in the air gave it’s presence away. After passing Lost Lake the trail began switching back uphill alongside the Big Obsidian Flow. The open forest sported a number of blooming lupine plants.
Forest along the Lost Lake Trail


Snow along the Lost Lake Trail

As we climbed we gained views of both of the large lakes in the Newberry Caldera.
Paulina Lake
Paulina Lake

East Lake
East Lake

After nearly 3 miles on the Lost Lake Trail the trail leveled out after cresting a knoll. Here the trail forked. The left fork led a quarter mile to the Pumice Flat and then on to the Crater Rim in another 3/4 of a mile while the right hand fork reached the Crater Rim Trail in only a half mile (and at a much closer point to Paulina Peak).
Trail signs along the Lost Lake Trail

Before taking the right hand fork we visited the Pumice Flat which was dotted with purple dwarf lupine blossoms.
Lupine near the Pumice Flat

Pumice Flat

Pumice Flat

From the junction near the Pumice Flat the trail climbed almost 350′ to the rim of the caldera and the Crater Rim Trail. This section of trail offered a nice view of our goal, Paulina Peak, as well as a look down on the Pumice Flat from above.
Paulina Peak

Pumice Flat near the Crater Rim Trail junction

Junction with the Crater Rim Trail

We turned right on the Crater Rim Trail and headed toward Paulina Peak. Although it was a little hazy out due to smoke form a couple of forest fires the views along this section extended from Mt. Jefferson in the north to Mt. Thielsen in the South.
Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Thielsen
Mt. Thielsen

The views back down into the caldera where less affected by the haze.
Pumice Flat and the Big Obsidian Flow from the Crater Rim Trail
Pumice Flat

East Lake and the Big Obsidian Flow
East Lake

Paulina Lake
Paulina Lake

The trail traversed around the south side of Paulina Peak meeting up with Road 500 two and a half miles from where we had turned onto the Crater Rim Trail.
Crater Rim Trail

Crater Rim Trail

Road 500 allows people to drive up to the 7984′ summit of Paulina Peak which makes it accessible to anyone. The Crater Rim Trail picked up on the far side of Road 500 at a trail sign after a 100′ jog to the left.
Crater Rim Trail

Crater Rim Trail

We followed the Crater Rim Trail for an additional .9 miles where we arrived at a junction with the Paulina Peak Trail.
Paulina Peak Trail

We followed this trail to the parking area atop Paulina Peak at the end of Road 500.
Paulina Peak summit sign

Despite the haze the 360 degree view was spectacular.
Diamond Peak
Diamond Peak to the SW

View from Paulina Peak
Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and The Three Sisters to the NW

Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and the Three Sisters
Closer look at the mountains

Paulina Lake
Paulina Lake to the north.

East Lake
East Lake and the Big Obsidian Flow to the NE

Big Obsidian Flow and the Pumice Flat from Paulina Peak
Pumice Flat to the East

After a nice break at the summit we returned to the Crater Rim Trail and continued on our loop. The trail headed down into the forest passing a view back to Paulina Peaks cliffy north face before recrossing Road 500 after 1.8 miles.
Crater Rim Trail

Paulina Peak

After another mile we reached a junction near Road 21 and the Paulina Visitor Center. Here we faced a choice. We could have turned right on a horse path for 3 miles back to the Big Obsidian Trailhead or we could cross Road 21 and take a slightly longer route along the shore of Paulina Lake. Of course we chose option C which was to take the lake shore trail but only after detouring to visit Paulina Falls.
Trail sign along the Crater Rim Trail

We followed the Crater Rim Trail across Road 21 and briefly along the entrance road to the Paulina Lake Lodge then turned left on the Paulina Falls Trail which followed Pualina Creek .3 miles to a picnic area at the falls viewpoint.
Paulina Creek

Paulina Creek

The twin falls were beautiful and quite a change from the other scenery we had encountered so far during the hike.
Paulina Falls

After a taking advantage of the cooler air by the falls to recharge we set off on the final leg our our hike. We crossed the lodge entrance road where we picked up the Paulina Lake Shore Loop Trail.
Trail sign for the Paulina Lake Shore Loop Trail

This 7.5 mile trail loops around Paulina Lake and is on our schedule for this year along with the upper portion of the Peter Skene Ogden Trail.  To complete our loop for this trip we would follow the lake shore for roughly 2.5 miles to the Silica Trail.

The scenery along this section of the lake shore varied quite a bit changing from grassy marsh to forest to rocky shore line and back.
Paulina Lake

Forest along the Paulina Lake Shore Loop Trail

Paulina Lake

Paulina Lake

Paulina Peak

BIg Obsidian Flow from Paulina Lake

After all the different views and scenery the hiked had provided up to the point when we arrived at the Silica Trail the final half mile paled in comparison.
Trial sign for the Silica Trail

The Silica Trail led away from Paulina Lake through a mostly viewless, dusty lodgepole pine forest before crossing Road 21 and bringing us back to the Big Obsidian Flow Trailhead.
Big Obsidian Flow sign

Our hike was somewhere around 15 miles (pre GPS) with approx 2500′ of elevation gain so it’s not for everyone, but everyone of the highlights of this hike are accessible via shorter options. This and the availability of numerous other recreational activities make the Newberry National Volcanic Monument a great place to visit. Happy Trails!