The Little Crater Trail is a fun little trail to explore in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument that others stunning views and varying terrain all in one short little package. This is a great trail to burn visit if your up in the area with some kinds and need to burn off a little steam, or if you would just like to go on a quick hike yourself, or even combine it with the Pauline Lakeshore Trail to make for a more complete hike. The options are endless in this mecca of volcanic fun.
The trailhead for the Little Crate Trail is located right near the boat ramp at the Little Crater Day Use Area. Look for the trail on the east side (or right side if you are facing the lake) of the parking area. The trail starts climbing immediately as you work your way up the crater. Pass by some cool rock formations on your way up and don’t fret, its not too far. After about a third of a mile, you will reach the junction with the loop. You can go either way, but you should do to the left because it is better that way.
As you start off to the left (because its better that way), you will soon pass a nice overlook of Paulina Lake. The trail descends slightly as it skirts along the rim of the crater. At the 0.6 mile mark, you will reach another junction. Heading left will lake you to the Pauline Lakeshore Trail all the way around the lake. If you are wanting to do that hike, you are on the wrong page. So head to the right and continue along the Little Crater Trail. The hike will begin to climb more steeply here as you work your way up to the summit of the rim.
You will reach the highpoint of the Little Crater a little less than a mile into your hike. There are some more cool rocks up here, with big cracks carved into them along the crater rim. You can also enjoy views ranging from both Paulina and East Lake as well as Paulina Peak and the Big Obsidian Flow. Following the viewpoint, continue along the trail as it begins to descend the crater rim. The views to Paulina Peak are expansive along this stretch and you head right towards it as it towers above you. At 1.5 miles, you will hit the beginning of the loop junction again, so head left and mosey on back down to your waiting car.
The reach the Little Crater Trailhead, head towards the turnoff for the Newberry Caldera on Highway 97, 6 miles north of La Pine or 17 miles south of Bend. Head East on the Paulina Lake Road. Continue up the road towards Paulina and East Lakes for 14.6 miles. Head towards the east side of Pualina Lake and make a left into the Little Crater Campground. Park near the boat ramp and you will be good.
Passes: A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on a leash.
Usage: Light along the trail but parking can be interesting at times.
Open Season: The road up to Paulina Lake closes in the winter at 10-mile Snopark, 10 miles from the highway. It usually opens for the season in late May and closes in Mid Novemeber.
Bugs: Mosquitos will likey be present and persistent from late May into August or so.