The Newberry National Volcanic Monument Visitor Center is roughly 10 miles south of Bend, Oregon on US-97. I first noticed Newberry National Volcanic Monument driving from Eugene to Bend. Lava Butte, a volcanic cinder cone, was prominent along US-97. The odd feature that stood out to me was how smooth the side of volcano looked. One side of the volcano was devoid of trees. Scattered trees grew on a few parts of the volcano. I saw a road winding around the volcano towards the top. Linda and I made a bet. Linda thought the trees were logged. I thought they never grew there.
The day after our bet, we drove south from Bend and turned off at the Visitor Center. At the gate we produced our America The Beautiful pass to avoid paying the $5 per car entrance fee. After parking at the Visitor Center, we went in to inquire about driving up the volcano. No cars (this time of year) are allowed on the volcano road. Only the bus.
We had some time to kill before the first bus so we spent some time wandering around the Visitor Center.
While the patio behind the Visitor Center faces Lava Butte, the trees make it impossible to really see it.
Bus service from the Visitor Center to the top of the cinder cone starts at 10:00 AM and the last trip is around 4:30 PM. We showed up on the bus steps 15 minutes before the first run. The driver was sitting in his seat and was agreeable to us joining him early. We paid our bus fair in cash as required. $2 per passenger to go up. Free to come back down. Before sitting down, I asked which side we should sit on to get the best view. The driver recommended the right hand side.
I took advantage of the opportunity to ask the driver (he was wearing US Forest Service Uniform) about the lack of trees on the cinder cone. He stated emphatically that the cone had never been logged. There weren’t many trees on the cone because the soil wouldn’t support them. His answer pleased me to no end. I don’t win many bets with Linda.
Soon others boarded the bus and it was time to leave. Unsurprisingly, the road up the cinder cone is steep. People who are afraid of heights should not sit on the right hand side of the bus.
At the top, the driver turns the bus around in the parking lot before letting the passengers off.
Lava Butte is shaped like a volcano should be shaped. It has a rim around the top of the cone. Inside the rim is a deep crater. In this case, the crater doesn’t hold water like Crater Lake does nor is it as large. We easily walked completely around the rim clockwise in a half hour.
The air quality was really poor. Forest fires in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Idaho have been burning for weeks. At times, I could taste the smoke. In the picture above, on clear days, other mountains would be clearly visible. Instead, they are hidden in the smokey haze.
Just beyond the elevation marker is a staffed Forest Fire Lookout Station. A lookout was looking for forest fires. I’m pretty sure the hazy smoke would have limited their visibility. We weren’t allowed access to the top of the lookout station. Too bad. I would have liked to see what they do up there.
The picture above makes the crater look like it just isn’t all that deep. However, standing on the high side of the rim, the crater was daunting. While it is possible to walk down into thee crater, I immediately decided against it as being too strenuous.
From the lookout station, we walked downhill along the crater’s rim. A sign, “Warning Loose Cinders” might be unclear. In the volcano’s context, cinders are hard black porous volcanic rocks, not burning wood.
Even with the poor visibility, the views were amazing.
We and many of the other visitors were obviously moved by the experience.
Weirdly, the crater looked much bigger from the low side of the rim. The Forest Fire Lookout Station looks tiny.
The rim loop trail completes in the parking lot where the bus awaits. We got back on the bus joking about the fare going up to $20 to get back to the Visitor Center.
The drive back provided additional views. For the best views down the hill, sit on the left hand side of the bus.
While we only saw the Visitor Center and Lava Butte, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument has a number of additional interesting features to explore. The monument is one of many interesting and unique volcano related activities to do in Oregon. Other than the Big Island, Hawaii, Oregon is the place to visit if you are intensely interested in all things volcano.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!