If you have not yet made the trek out to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, it is well worth the trip and something you should definitely add to your “Bend Bucket List”! This amazing area is located about an hour south of Bend, past Sunriver & La Pine. Features include includes two lakes, East Lake and Paulina Lake, Paulina Peak, the Big Obsidian Lava Flow, and twin waterfalls known as Paulina Falls.
Our first stop was Paulina Peak to get a bird’s eye view of the area. From the main road into the park (Forest Road 21), once you pass the welcome station, turn right onto Paulina Peak Road. There is a hiking trail that will take you to the top of the peak. If you decide to go for the hike, the trailhead is located about a quarter mile up Paulina Peak Road on the left, across from the parking lot. The hike is about 2 miles each way with stunning views along the hike. We didn’t do the hike on our visit, but I’ve read it is family friendly, although a bit steep, so just be prepared for that based on your child’s ability and stamina.
We opted to drive to the top of Paulina Peak as we were trying to pack as much as possible into our visit and our timing didn’t allow for the hike. Once you pass the parking lot for the hiking trail, the road continues to the peak. It is not paved and quite narrow, so just be prepared for that. As the driver, I chose not to look out the passenger window due to the massive drop off. It’s a slow going 4-mile drive to the top but well worth the trip!
From the top of Pauline Peak, you can see the Newberry Caldera that surrounds the entire area with the two lakes in the center. On a side note, I learned that the caldera is actually a collapsed volcano and the two lakes were originally one. When the volcano collapsed, the lakes were split in two. That’s pretty cool! There is a lot of good information to be found at the Lava Lands Visitor Center, which we stopped by. Look for an updated blog post soon on the Lava Cast Forest and Lava Butte.
The view at the top of Paulina Peak is simply amazing! Since you are at such a high elevation, it can get a little chilly, so don’t forget your sweatshirt.
If you venture off to the right a little, you can even catch a glimpse of the Big Obsidian Lava Flow!
We were even lucky enough on our visit to find not one, but three Love Rocks at the top of the Peak. What a special treat for the kids! Check out their website to read their story and find out how you can spread the love & joy!
Once we made our way back down, we decided to have lunch on the banks of Paulina Lake. We brought a picnic lunch and found several picnic tables near the resort area. You could also grab lunch at the lodge or have a drink up in the upstairs bar.
Better yet, grab a table on the balcony and soak in the view.
A little cool fact that I learned while chatting with the employees at the lodge is that the Pauline Lake Lodge was used to film some scenes for the movie “The Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon!
While at the lake, the kids enjoyed exploring on the boat docks and feeding the ducks!
Next up, Paulina Falls! It is a super short walk to the upper viewing area from the parking lot. The majesty of these twin waterfalls is simply amazing! You can continue hiking along the path at the top of the waterfalls and explore the river or even have lunch at the top. There are picnic tables at this location as well.
You can also view the falls from a lower viewing area, which is a short 1/4mile hike to the bottom. The view from the bottom of Paulina Falls is just as amazing as the one from the top!
Once we reached the bottom, my son made it known that we were not leaving until we made the hike to the base of the waterfall. So, we climbed the fence and made the challenging hike over the boulders to the base of the waterfall. If you think you would like to make this hike, it is definitely worth it to bring your hiking shoes. I had on regular sneakers and my son had on his hiking shoes, and he was definitely at an advantage. Not only is there a bit of climbing involved to get to the base of the waterfall, it is also quite wet and slippery.
Once you have reached the base of the waterfall, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and find that the journey was well worth the climb! Where else can you stand at the base of a waterfall, take in a view of the pool, get soaked in the mist and touch a rainbow? It was simply an amazing experience!
On this visit we did not make it over to the Big Obsidian Lava Flow, but I’ve heard it is “like walking on another planet”! The hike is a fairly quick & easy, so good for the kiddos with interpretive signs telling the history of the area. Dogs are allowed on leash, but proceed with caution as obsidian is sharp like glass and their pads will get cut and retain tiny slivers of obsidian. If you have time during your visit, I would definitely recommend a stop here.
If you can, plan a visit to The Newberry National Volcanic Monument before the road to Paulina Peak closes for the winter and before it gets too cold to make the trek to the base of Paulina Falls. Hope to see you out there exploring the beauty of this area….Living the Bend Life!