If you’d like some excellent horseback riding along with a view of the fascinating volcanic forces that shaped Central Oregon, then a trip to Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a must. The trails are delightfully horse friendly, with manageable elevation changes, stunning views, and no drop-offs anywhere.
Newberry Crater was formed when its namesake volcano blew its top, much like Crater Lake did. And like its more-famous cousin to the south, Newberry Crater gradually filled with water, forming Paulina Lake and East Lake in the bottom of the caldera.
The trails at Newberry explore the crater floor, make a 25-mile loop around the crater rim, and connect the upper and lower trails with tie trails that radiate out like the spokes on a wheel. The result is an assortment of delightful loops of varying lengths and difficulties. Every trail offers panoramic views.
The crater rim offers panoramic views of Paulina and East Lakes below you, as well as Paulina Peak and North Paulina Peak on the caldera’s rim.
The Three Sisters and the rest of the Cascades range dominate the western horizon. From a couple of vantage points you can even see Fort Rock in the desert to the south.
You’ll get a close-up look at the recent (in geologic terms) Big Obsidian Flow, which sparkles in the sunlight because of the chunks of black obsidian embedded in the lava.
You can ride along beautiful Paulina Creek, the crater’s only outlet, enjoying the riparian wildflowers and stopping to ogle Paulina Falls, a double waterfall that drops 80 feet over a basalt ledge. Impressive!
And be sure to take the Crater Trail over to Paulina Lake Resort for lunch or dinner at the resort’s restaurant. The food is delicious and the lake views are relaxing. (Then, when you get home, rent the movie “Wild” again – it was partially filmed here.)
Chief Paulina Horse Camp (pronounced Paul-EYE-nah), located at the base of Newberry Crater, offers day-use parking as well as overnight accommodations complete with stock water, corrals, toilet, and manure bin.
Yes, indeed, a trip to Chief Paulina Horse Camp is a memorable experience. You’ve got to go!
Getting There: From Bend, take Hwy. 97 south for 23 miles and turn left on Paulina Lake Road/Road 21. Continue 11 miles to the park entrance kiosk, then drive 1 mile past it and turn right. The horse camp is ahead on the right in 1.2 miles.
Fees: Fee for overnight camping; Northwest Forest Pass required for day use
Season: May through October
Camping Facilities: 14 campsites, plus parking for many rigs at the horse camp’s day-use area. Four sites have 4-horse corrals and the rest have 2-horse corrals. All are back-in, and 6 sites are large enough for 2 vehicles. Some sites cannot accommodate larger trailers. The campground has a vault toilet, manure bin, and stock water in a large trough. All sites have fire pits and picnic tables.
More Information: The trails out of Chief Paulina Horse Camp are covered in more detail in Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2012).