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Newberry Caldera South Rim Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Paulina and East Lakes from the Crater Rim Trail, Newberry Caldera (bobcat)
View to north rim of the Newberry Caldera, Paulina Lake (bobcat)
The Big Obsidian Flow from Paulina Peak, Newberry Caldera (bobcat)
Looking to Paulina Lake, Lost Lake Trail, Newberry Caldera (bobcat)
Lost Lake at the edge of the Big Obsidian Flow, Newberry Caldera (bobcat)
The Obsidian Cliffs, Newberry Crater Trail (bobcat)
In the phone line corridor, Newberry Crater Trail, Newberry Caldera (bobcat)
The loop taking in Paulina Peak and the Big Obsidian Flow (not a GPS Track) (bobcat) Courtesy: USFS/Caltopo
  • Start point: Paulina Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Big Obsidian Flow
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 13.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2380 feet
  • High Point: 7,984 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

The Newberry Caldera, part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, frames the collapsed core of a volcano that began activity about 400,000 years ago, ejecting lava flows and pyroclastic deposits in all directions. This hike takes you to three of the most salient features of the volcano. Begin the hike at Paulina Lake, one of two large lakes inside the caldera. Next, hike up the west rim of the caldera to Paulina Peak, the highest central Oregon summit east of the Cascades. Then, you’ll hike the south rim to descend to the Big Obsidian Flow, the most recent of the lava flows at only 1,300 years old. Most of these trails are shared with mountain bikers and horses. Sections of trail between the features are composed of rather monotonous strands of lodgepole pine, and horse activity in the summer can make the tread quite dusty. You can also just drive to Paulina Peak and the Big Obsidian Flow.

Walk out to the shore of Paulina Lake. You may see ducks feeding in the marshes here, and you can see the Paulina Lake Lodge on the west shore. An interpretive sign tells about the “This Really, Really Old House,” an archeological dig that investigated a 10,500 year-old dwelling. Walk back towards the road, passing the restrooms, and cross to the Visitor Center. Take the path leading right behind a map sign, and arrive at the Crater Rim-Newberry Crater Trail Junction. Keep straight here to follow the Crater Rim Trail #57 through a lodgepole pine, mountain hemlock, white fir woodland with a lot of deadfall. Cross a road bed and a phone line corridor. Blue diamonds on trees mark this as a cross-country ski trail. You’ll see a concrete water tank to the left as you ascend very gradually for about a mile to reach the Paulina Peak Trailhead on the gravel Paulina Peak Road.

It’s two miles from here to the summit of Paulina Peak. Cross the road, and resume the trail up a slope of mountain hemlock. Reach the rim of the caldera and begin to glimpses of Paulina Lake below and the rugged crags of Paulina Peak above. Switchback in a carpet of grouseberry, and head steeply up before the trail swings back to the rim. From here, get your first open view down to Paulina Lake, East Lake, the Central Cone, Little Crater, the Big Obsidian Flow, and up to Paulina Peak. Whitebark pines begin to appear. Pass a monolithic crag and get another sweeping view. The Three Sisters and other snow-capped peaks are visible on the western skyline. Swing away from the rim to make three switchbacks in hemlock/lodgepole woods. The trail levels to reach another viewpoint. An interpretive sign here tells about efforts to save the whitebark pines from blister rust: an epidemic here in the 1950s killed many of the old pines, but they are returning. This is the last point on the Whitebark Pine Nature Trail, which begins at Paulina Peak. Reach the Crater Rim-Paulina Peak Trail Junction, and go left on the Paulina Peak Trail #51.

It’s about a quarter of a mile from the junction to the summit. Whitebark pines are the only conifers now, and open views extend to the Cascade Range. Look for Clark’s nutcrackers flying their dipping path through the trees. Make three short switchbacks to the parking area just below the summit of Paulina Peak. There are restrooms here and interpretive signs at the overlook, but the summit is closed to vehicle traffic in the summer. Walk a little farther from the far side of the parking area to get a view of the sprawling Big Obsidian Flow. On a very clear day, you can supposedly see from Mount Adams in Washington to Mount Shasta in California as well as all the way southeast in Oregon to Steens Mountain. Summer visitors are usually not so lucky, though.

When you’re done with the views, head back down the Paulina Peak Trail to the Crater Rim-Paulina Peak Trail Junction, and make a left. Drop from a saddle through a whitebark pine parkland, and then traverse a slope of lodgepole pine and mountain hemlock to reach the Paulina Peak Road. Head up the road about 40 yards to resume the trail. Make two short switchbacks, and then traverse along a slope of lodgepole pine and pinemat manzanita. Soon some sizeable mountain hemlocks appear. Reach the caldera rim, and bear right. A viewpoint allows a vista towards the east face of Paulina Peak as well as down to the Big Obsidian Flow and Paulina Lake. The trail rises and swings behind a prominence on the rim. Then drop to the rim again to hike above the Big Obsidian Flow on a open pumice slope with tussocks of lupine, goldenweed, and sedge. Get views across the vast cinder cone field south of the caldera. The trail drops through lodgepole and whitebark pines and then undulates along the rim to reach the Crater Rim-Lost Lake South Trail Junction.

Make a left, and switchback twice, angling down a soft pumice slope. Make six more switchbacks and begin to notice the many chunks of obsidian alongside the trail. To your left, get views across the Big Obsidian Flow to Paulina Peak. Reach the edge of the Big Obsidian Flow, and then arrive at the Lost Lake-Lost Lake South Trail Junction. For a quick foray to Pumice Flat, go right here, and follow the Lost Lake Trail in a quarter mile gradual descent to the sere, open landscape of Pumice Flat. Then return to the last junction, and continue down the Lost Lake Trail.

The trail rises near the east edge of the Big Obsidian Flow. Watch for golden-mantled ground squirrels scampering about. You’ll make six switchbacks back and forth to the lava flow before traversing down to enter a shady mountain hemlock forest. There are another five switchbacks down into a woodland now dominated by lodgepole pines. The trail merges with an old road track lined with logs; a clearing on the left is the site of a geothermal test well. Soon you'll arrive at the Newberry Crater-Lost Lake Trail Junction.

Go left here on the Newberry Crater Trail #58. The paved park road runs to your right. In short order, come to the Newberry Crater-Silica Trail Junction, where you need to make a left to visit the Big Obsidian Flow interpretive trail. Reach the Big Obsidian Flow Trailhead, where you’ll find restrooms and picnic tables. Across the parking area, the lollipop loop to the Big Obsidian Flow Trail #3958A begins.

A paved trail reaches a flight of steel steps that takes you up to get views down to the base of the flow and the ponds that remain of Lost Lake. Interpretive signs along this trail detail the volcanic, human, and natural history of the Big Obsidian Flow. The first trail junction is with a short spur leading left. The second junction is the beginning of the loop, so go left here. You’ll soon get a view up to the looming prominence of Paulina Peak. At the top of the loop, a spur leads left to a bench, one of several along the trail. Wind down through the black boulders, and go left at the junction which closes the loop to return to the Big Obsidian Flow Trailhead. From here, hike back down to the Newberry Crater-Silica Trail Junction, and make a left.

Cross the entrance road to the trailhead. From here, it’s 2 ½ miles back to your vehicle at the Paulina Lake Trailhead. Hike a dusty old road bed along the base of the Obsidian Cliffs, noting the tough whitebark pines that have taken root high up on the black glassy slopes. Here, at this lower elevation, they’ve found a niche where they don’t have to compete with more aggressive conifer species. At the northwest corner of the flow, you’ll come to the Newberry Crater-Roller Coaster Trail Junction, where winter snowmobile trails are numbered. Keep straight in woods of lodgepole pine. You’ll see the three crags on Paulina Peak’s north rim looming above. Soon, the Newberry Crater Trail spins off the old road bed to your left.

Come to the first Newberry Crater-Chief Paulina Horse Camp Trail Junction, and keep left here and at the next junction. It’s only about a mile longer to your vehicle from this spot. You’ll see the horse camp below before you wind up and around a small hemlock-forested bowl to reach a phone line corridor. Go left to follow the dusty trail along this corridor. You’ll drop into several gullies, and pass an unsigned junction with a ski trail. Keep straight to cross Paulina Peak Road below a gate, and hike along with a park maintenance road to your left. Head gradually up a slope, and veer right into a lodgepole pine forest at a fenced maintenance yard. The trail drops down to pass under the phone lines. Stay to the left of a gravel road as you pass the Visitor Center. Go right at the Crater Rim-Newberry Crater Trail Junction to return to your car.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass required
  • Restrooms, picnic areas, campgrounds, interpretive trails, boat launch
  • Share trails with mountain bikes and horses
  • No removal of obsidian
  • Dogs not permitted on the Big Obsidian Flow
  • Visitor Center open May 27th to October 1st

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Newberry Caldera & Paulina Lakes (Maplets)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Fort Rock Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Deschutes National Forest
  • Adventure Maps: Bend, Oregon, Trail Map
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Bend – Three Sisters

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon’s Geology by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails by Kim McCarrel

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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