Newberry Crater: The Best-Kept Winter Secret in Central Oregon
Photo Cred: US Forest Service
Have you heard of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument? No? You're not alone. Thankfully, this
beautiful and geologically diverse area is still under the radar when it comes to winter visitors.
The trip into the Newberry Crater, from 10-mile Sno-Park to Paulina Lake just so happens to be one of
our favorite cross-country ski or snowshoe outings in Central Oregon. It's nearby - less than 20 miles to
the 10-mile Sno-park from Sunriver. There's even a newer warming hut at the trailhead, which makes a
great spot to get your gear on. This trip is perfect for families and groups, and the trails are dog-friendly
if you want to bring your pups along!
The Newberry National Volcanic Monument covers about 84 square miles, centered around the
volcano's caldera and Paulina Peak (7,985 ft). The peak overshadows the giant caldera and it's two large,
pristine lakes: Paulina Lake and East Lake. The area is filled with lava flows, beautiful lodgepole forest,
and tons of recreation opportunities.
In the winter, there is a wonderful and well-marked nordic and snowmobile trail system in the Newberry
Crater, thanks to hard work from the USFS and the LaPine Lodgepole Dodgers Snowmobile Club. While
the snowmobile trails are groomed, we recommend sticking to the nordic trails on weekends, as the
snowmobile trail can be pretty busy!
You can make the 7-mile round-trip to Paulina Lake a loop using the Paulina View Trail and the
Ponderosa Rim Trail, or just head out and back on the Ponderosa Rim Trail. The trails have a very
mellow grade and are easy enough for any level of snowshoer or skier to travel, including kids. If you
have young kids, consider carrying them in a kid-carrier pack or make your life easy and rent a Burley ski
trailer from Village Bike & Ski in Sunriver.
Whichever route you choose, we recommend stopping at the Paulina Falls Viewpoint, to catch a view of
the wide and frozen cascade. The ice formations can be dramatic around the waterfall. Stay back from
the edge of the overlook, as the snowpack often gets deep and can overtop the safety railing.
After your stop at Paulina Falls, continue on to the Paulina Lake Lodge. This lodge and restaurant is
what makes this trip so unique and great for families. The Lodge is perched on the shore of Paulina
Lake, with spectacular views of Paulina Peak and the rim of the Caldera. The restaurant stays open
during winter weekends (check their website for hours!) and makes a perfect stop to warm up cold
fingers and cheeks with a hot, tasty lunch by the roaring wood stove.
Take your time at the lodge, since it's the halfway point in your adventure. Breaking up the adventure
will make it much more manageable for your kids. Relax, play a round of cards, or sip a drink and
socialize in the toasty warmth. (Note: Dogs are NOT welcome inside the lodge, so plan to keep fido on a
leash outside if you bring your dog along!) From the lodge, if you are feeling intrepid, you can ski around
the lake for spectacular views of Paulina Peak. If your group is tired, head on back to the Sno-Park.
When you get back to your Sunriver Rental, we guarantee you, your family, and your dogs will be worn
out, so plan to enjoy a soak in the hot tub. We are pretty sure your visit to the Newberry National
Volcanic Monument will be on your list of favorite winter adventures, just like it's on ours!
As with any backcountry trip, pack extra snacks and water, as well as extra layers in case of an
emergency. Cell service is spotty, at best, so let someone know when you plan to return. Check with the
Deschutes National Forest for conditions before you head out. Don't forget to bring your phone or
camera along, to catch lots of pictures of your adventure.