Central Oregon holds a lot of amazing and beautiful recreation locations, but one that is often overlooked is the Newberry Caldera Recreational Park just south of Sunriver. The Newberry Caldera is actually the largest volcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, and is about the size of Rhode Island. When it erupted 1,300 years ago, it created two lakes within its crater: Elk and Paulina Lake. This makes a perfect day trip that shouldn’t involve the crowds you would see at Crater Lake.
On a nice hot day, Paulina and Elk lakes are favorites for locals to find some relief from the heat. These lakes are very easily accessible for fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, or any non-motorized watercraft you want! If you do not have your own gear with you, that’s not a problem! Elk Lake offers day rentals of recreational watercraft to enjoy with your family.
The caldera also has a number of hiking options for all levels:
❖ Big Obsidian Flow trail: It’s a short hike, roughly a mile and a half, and very beginner friendly, but you’ll see amazing quantities of obsidian all around the trails. Please do not remove any obsidian. Also, this is not a good trail for your dog, as the obsidian will cut their paws.
❖ Paulina Falls: This beautiful waterfall is easily accessible to all, and particularly impressive in the spring with higher water levels.
❖ Paulina Peak: This is an expert-level trail, about 4 miles round-trip. About a mile up the trail, you will follow the cliffline (keeping a good, healthy distance from the cliff), which allows you to watch the views get better as you reach the top. It is short and steep, so make sure to pack plenty of water! You can also drive to Paulina Peak if the hike is too much.
❖ Other hikes circumnavigate Paulina Lake (about 7 miles), and a 27-mile crater rim hikewhich is more popular among mountain bikers. There are no water options on the Rim Trail, so make sure to pack in plenty of water.
Each of the lakes has access to hot springs! The Paulina Lake Hot Springs are a mile-and-a-half hike in; Elk Lake Hot Springs are closer to a quarter mile. These are the closest hot spring options for Central Oregon.
One last thing I’d like to note is that this park closes for the winter. However, you can still access different trailheads along the road leading to the park for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling! Make sure to do additional research on those trails and observe safety information for winter activities.
Please make sure to respect the trails, and Leave No Trace to help conserve this area for others who come after you. Regardless of why you might choose to come out to play in this amazing spot in Oregon, you are guaranteed to find adventure!