Recently I made a trip to Central Oregon’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument to do a bit of hiking with my friend Yariv who was passing through the state on a road trip. Even though it was July, there was still a ton of snow on the ground up in the higher elevations of the park, making the hike a bit more challenging.
Newberry Volcano is a large shield volcanocovering over 500 square miles. The Newberry Caldera, aka Newberry Crater, is a five mile wide caldera containing two lakes. The most recent eruption was about 1,300 years ago and created the Big Obsidian Flow — a massive flow of black glass and pumice that covers a large portion of the southern caldera wall. The highest point on the volcano is Paulina Peak, at 2434 meters (7984 ft.).
This was a bit like a homecoming for me — years ago, I worked for the US Forest Service, and I’ve spent a lot of time working in Newberry Crater. I was a crew leader for the Youth Conservation Corps back in the day, and I lead one of several trail crews that cleared and maintained the trails within the caldera. I hadn’t been back to Newberry since leaving the Forest Service back in the late 90s.
Yariv and I decided to make a go for the summit, despite all the snow in the area. After a brief walk around on Obsidian Flow, we made our way up the southern wall of the caldera to the Crater Rim Trail — about 4 miles of steep trail with lots of switchbacks and a lot of snow. The Crater Rim Trail was mostly flat, but covered in even more snow, and at one point we completely lost the trail and had to guesstimate our location and trudge on through the snow until we found the trail again a few hundred meters later. The hike to the top was not all that difficult, but it was long. In all, we hiked just under 11 miles from the Obsidian Flow, up to the peak, then back down to where we’d parked one of our cars near the western trail head.
After the day’s hike, we made our way to a cinder cone called “The Dome” on the eastern slope of Newberry Crater. The Dome is a great spot for star gazing, and I’d hoped to get some long exposure photos up there, but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, and we were chased off the cinder cone by a sudden rain storm. Not the best way to end a day at Newberry. I suppose July is just too early for any high-elevation hiking in Oregon.