The Trail of Molten Lands at Lava Lands in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is your chance to get up close and personal to a lava spewing, volcanic eruption at occurred here just 7,000 years ago. The paved trail through the lava field is a great place to let kids explore some of Central Oregon’s volcanic legacy. The trail is also lined with interpretive signs to help expand your knowledge base as well.
The Newberry Volcano is one of the largest volcanos in North America, and Lava Butte rests on the far western flank of the mountain. Lava flows from this giant shield volcano covers nearly 1,200 square miles and data back as far as 400,000 years to as recent as 1,300 years. This lava flow that poured out of the south flank of Lava Butte also damned up the Deschutes River is a few spots, helping to create many of the dynamic waterfalls on river above Bend.
The trail begins from the Lava Lands Visitor Center. This place is awesome to check out and was one of my favorite places when I was a kid. There are a lot of cool displays and exhibits within its walls. Just behind the visitor center, look for a paved trail that begins heading towards Lava Butte. This is your path.
The trail quickly enters the lava fields and begins winding its way towards the butte. Signs along the way will point out interesting features, such as lava balls and rivers. The trail slits quickly after entering the lava, and a sign will direct you to walk the path in a counter clockwise direction. Don’t be an anarchist and follow the sign. Its makes for a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
Less than a quarter mile from the beginning of the loop, you will see a sign directing you to the Phil Brogan Viewpoint to your right. It is about 800 feet to reach the viewpoint, and this little stretch contains most of the climbing along the trail, but it is worth it. As you head up towards the Butte, you will get to pass under where the breach in the Lava Butte occurred and the lava came pouring out. A little further will have you standing at the viewpoint, looking out over the fields of lava to the Cascades beyond.
Once you finish viewing the views, turn around and head back and continue the loop. Along the path back, be sure to keep your eyes open for the famous Lava Ness Monster. The dead tree trunk emerges from the lava all twisted and curves over, making it appear just like the famous picture of the Loch Ness Monster. Kids' imaginations will run wild.
To reach Lava Lands, head south of Bend on Highway 97 for 11 miles and take the exit for Lava Lands. If you are coming from the south, take the Cottonwood Rd exit 1.5 miles north of Sunriver. Follow Cottonwood Road for 2 miles and then head left onto Crawford Road towards Lava Lands. When you see Lava Butte rising above the highway you will know you are close, but the signs directing you to Lava Lands will be the biggest help.
Passes: Northwest Forest Pass is required at the parking area of the visitor center.
Dogs: Allowed but must be kept on leash
Open Season: The trail is open year round, but the visitor center is only open between May and October
Considerations: You will be hiking through black rock with no shade to be seen. It can get very hot during hot days in the summer. Trips are best completed during the morning hours in the summer time.