How To Make Your Day At Newberry National Volcanic Monument OR
So here’s something a little different for you, and it’s National Park Senior-Pass-friendly a few times over. Spend a day with geology crunching under your feet. Walk, ride, spelunk, pose for a hundred selfies with fabulous views, get up close and personal with a lava bed. Where? Newberry National Volcanic Monument, south of Bend OR, on the east side of the Cascades.
Where’s the Newberry National Volcanic Monument info?
Great question, lousy answer, because alas, since the US Forest Service—rather than the BLM, which is the usual National Park Service partner—manages the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, this National Monument doesn’t have a page on the lovely familiar NPS website.
If you’d like to, go ahead and check out the official (unexciting) USFS website here. USFS does have a spiffy newsletter-map-info pamphlet focused on the Newberry Caldera. You can download it here. Otherwise, make tracks to Wikipedia and click around. Wikipedia has the kind of details you might need for planning and general overview.
You’ll need your NPS Senior Pass more than once…
Since the Newberry volcano and a herd of relatives splattered far and wide in this area, you’ll have to show your pass and wave at the ranger several times during your Lava Lands adventure.
In fact, there are 4 main areas to visit
The Lava Lands Visitor Center and Lava Butte, the Lava River Cave, and the Lava Cast Forest. The fourth—the Newberry caldera—may be the most spectacular of them all, and it’s a great place to overnight.
Visit the Lava Lands Visitor Center to get oriented
Discriminating between one lava pile and another is a challenge.
So, make it a priority to go to the Lava Lands Visitor Center on Highway 97, where you can get oriented to your surroundings, basic geology, and the general layout of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument with associated cones, magma blasts, flows, holes, caves, and buttes (as in BEAUTIFUL, not butt).
Top it up
See that attention-grabbing cinder cone in the photo above? It’s called Lava Butte and it towers over the Lava Lands Visitor Center. From there, you’ll look out over a vast volcano dump, with coney peaks near and far, some bedecked with year-round snow.
Choose a method, and get yourself up top: you can go by shuttle ($2 in 2016) or on foot.
How about a little hike?
There are two shorty hikes right out of the Visitor Center parking lot. These will give you a chance to explore lava and ponderosa pines up close and personal. The Trail of the Molten Land is all-abilities accessible as well.
A bike ride?
Told you there’s all kinds of exercise around here. A newly-completed multi-purpose trail will take you to Benham Falls. The handy-dandy map provided by the Lava Lands Visitor Center will show you the way.
It’s not you: it’s the altitude
There’s one little detail that’s easy to ignore in the Cascades until you appear to be visited by sudden-onset-pulmonary-shortcomings. As in huffing and puffing, when you’re fit as a fiddle.
Lava Lands and Bend OR are approximately 4000′ above sea level: you might find it surprisingly difficult to catch your breath if you aren’t used to the altitude.
Recommendation? Factor in the altitude when planning your day.
Because… you may want to save your breath for a VERY APPEALING exercise option…
This might just be the most fun part of your entire poke-around at Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
Here you’ll find a “river ran through it” lava morass, and there’s no water anymore. This created a cave.
You can go in it.
Spelunking? Yes, sirree, though this is more like stairs, ramps, and pathways, and not the heavy-duty rope and crawling stuff.
However, caves tend to be dark and damp. This one’s no different. You’ll need a rental lantern (or your all-important headlamp), your sturdy footwear, the ranger, and some warm clothes. It gets mighty cold in there.
The Lava River Cave is a couple of miles south of the Visitor Center. You get there in your trusty rig.
Onwards and upwards
The third leg of your Lava Lands adventure takes you up to the rim of the Newberry Caldera. “Up” is a significant word here, since you’ll be near the 6000′ mark.
You’d like a glimpse in advance? How about a mini video of the drive, sights, views…..
What about overnight?
Mmmm…this is where you need a link to Paulina Lake OR: How To Sleep Soundly In A Snoozing Volcano!
Fourth leg of the trip: Lava Cast Forest
A USFS-provided video of the Lava Cast Forest Trail will provide you with a quickie tour of what you can expect if you choose to drive south.
The image way up top ^^^ will give you an idea what you might be looking at.
Nearby or on the way?
Need some more lava fun? A different sort of Cascades day-in-the woods? A senior-friendly awesome place to camp?
Photo credits. Featured image and top, Tree mold in the Lava Cast Forest: FAL by Brian W. Schaller via Wikimedia Commons. Lookout tower, Lava Butte, Newberry National Volcanic Monument (2014): CC BY-SA 4.0 by Another Believer via Wikimedia. Hiking trail through the Lava Butte area of Bend OR: CC BY-ND by Brian Holsclaw via Flickr. Benham Falls: CC BY-ND 2.0 by Harold Johnson via Flickr. Lava River Cave-Deschutes: Public Domain by USFS via Flickr. Newberry National Volcanic Monument caldera: Public Domain by USGS (photo by Lyn Topinka) via Wikimedia. Lava Butte: Pubic Domain via Wikimedia.