An historic road trip in the Pacific Northwest might bring to mind Native American sites or stops along the Oregon Trail. But history goes back long before there were covered wagons or even humans. What if you could jump in your car and take a short drive to get a glimpse of how things looked 70,000 years ago?
That’s exactly what you will find with a road trip to Newberry National Volcanic Monument and the Lava Lands Visitor Center in the Deschutes National Forest. Located in Bend, OR this is where you can see and learn how the eruption of the volcano dramatically and spectacularly changed the landscape.
For a full day of family fun, slide down natural waterslides and bike to six waterfalls all created by volcanic activity.
The Newberry volcano itself is about the size of Rhode Island. Cinder cones, more than 400 vents, miles of basalt flows, and rhyolite flows of obsidian are some of the features that will wow armchair earth scientists and the rest of us as well. For those not ready to geek-out over rock formations though, there’s much more to do in the Monument.
Tucked into the eastern part of Oregon, this area may commonly be thought of as dry desert and there is plenty of high desert, but there are also more than 54,000 acres of lakes within the Monument for boating, fishing, or splashing around on a hot day.
If a road trip for you is not complete unless you strap on your hiking boots, the Peter Skene Ogden Trail runs next to a creek and ascends a full 8.5 miles. If you’re not that ambitious or if your kids find walking “boooring”, there are shorter trail options or you can use a bike or horse to throw in some excitement.
In the Monument it’s tough to miss the Newberry Caldera that stretches across 17 square miles. It’s like a giant lake but made when the rocks around the volcano rim collapsed during an eruption so it’s surrounded by volcanic cliffs and is very pristine and very deep. It’s also cool to consider how it got there.
Waterfall fans will not be disappointed by the 80-foot double waterfall, Paulina Falls which also has a trail running between the top and bottom for those hiking enthusiasts. The water is actually pouring over lava flow deposits that came from an eruption over 75,000 years ago! Now that’s history.
Of course, no visit to a volcanic area would be complete without seeing what happens underground. The Lava River Cave provides just that opportunity. Descend 100 stairs to explore a mile of this massive lava tube. And if the temperatures outside are scorching, the steady 45-degree air of the cave will be a bonus.
If the kids still wish you’d chosen Disneyland for a trip instead, take them to Paulina Plunge to slide down natural rock waterslides and ride bikes to six waterfalls. That beats standing in line in the sweltering heat for a chance to ride the log flume. Remind them the Instagram photos will be amazing.
If the scientist in you still needs more, see what a forest looks like when it’s been covered and frozen in lava at the Lava Cast Forest, and check out Big Obsidian Flow--170-million cubic yards of glassy obsidian and pumice. A loop trail winds through the area and has great views of Hidden Lake. And when your legs just can’t carry you further, jump on a shuttle to be whisked to the top of Paulina Peak, the very top of the volcano that provides sweeping views of the entire area. You can look back at all the places you’ve been in just this one road trip!