Mountain Biking the Newberry Crater Rim Trail in Oregon
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Looking for a beautiful, long backcountry ride near Bend, Oregon? The Newberry Crater Rim Trail is your answer. This 22-mile loop circumnavigates the rim of Newberry Volcano and offers stunning views down over the two lakes in its caldera: Paulina Lake and East Lake.
Riders can also pedal all the way up to the top of Paulina Peak for amazing views out over the caldera and surrounding mountain ranges.
This ride is one of my favorites in Oregon and should definitely be on your ride-it list if you enjoy big backcountry rides!
Newberry Crater Volcanic Monument
Newberry Crater was designated a National Monument in 1990 to protect the lakes, lava flows, and geologic features located in the area. The Monument covers 86 square miles and offers a ton of recreation opportunities like biking, hiking, boating, and camping.
Fun fact: Newberry Crater was used for training Apollo astronauts in the 1960s.
Newberry Crater is located near La Pine, about an hour south of Bend. Take highway 97 to the turnoff of County Highway 21 (also known as Paulina-East Lake road). The road is paved all the way to the visitor center but is windy.
NOTE: This is NOT the Newberry National Volcanic Monument just south of Bend at the Lava Lands Visitor Center.
Where to park
You’ll want to park at the Paulina Lake Campground parking area. From there, it’s a short pedal on the paved road to the turn-off onto the Paulina Peak fire road.
A $5 recreation day pass is required to park at Paulina Lake.
What to know before you ride
This is a big day
At 22 miles and over 3,000 ft of climbing, mountain biking the Newberry Rim Trail is a big day. Be prepared for 4-6 hours out on the trail.
There is no water along the route
Bring at least three liters of water with you. I carried 3L in my pack and a water bottle of Tailwind Endurance Fuel.
Ride the loop counterclockwise
I highly recommend riding this loop counterclockwise. This way, you’ll get the best descents and avoid climbing a steep section with stairsteps.
Cell service is intermittent
There are patches of cell service throughout the route, but it is intermittent.
Watch for hikers and equestrians
You’ll most likely see some hikers and possibly horseback riders somewhere along the loop. Be kind and courteous and give them the right of way.
the Newberry Crater Rim Trail Guide
Newberry Crater Rim Trail
- Route difficulty: Intermediate with good fitness
- Mileage: 22.33 miles*
- Elevation gain/loss: 3,245 ft*
- Moving time: 3 hrs 28 minutes*
- Route directions: Paulina Lake Parking > Main Road > Forest Service Road 500 (Paulina Peak Rd.) > Paulina Peak Summit (optional) > Newberry Crater Rim
- Map/GPS: TrailForks, MTB Project
*As measured by my Garmin Fenix watch
From the Paulina Lake parking area, you’ll jump on the main road (take a left out of the parking lot) for a very short stretch. You’ll see the NF-500 road on the right. It’s paved for a short bit and then turns to gravel.
The Newberry Crater Rim loop starts with a big climb up a gravel fire road. The road goes all the way to the top of Paulina Peak, but the trailhead is actually about a mile below the summit. If you’ve never been to the lookout at the top, I highly recommend pedaling all the way up. The views are absolutely stunning!
HOWEVER, as you come back down the fire road, it is VERY easy to miss the turnoff onto the Crater Rim trail, which will be on the left (you’ll see it on the right as you pedal up).
I actually missed the turnoff and the only reason I realized it is because I saw a faint trail on the other side of the road. Go slow and keep your eyes peeled or else you’ll add some climbing to your already big day.
If you’ve already been up to the lookout at Paulina Peak or you want to cut off some climbing, you can skip the summit and take the turnoff onto the Crater Rim trail. This will cut off about 350 ft of climbing and 2 miles.
Newberry Crater Rim
Once you get on the Newberry Crater Rim trail, you’ll follow this all the way to the end. There are a few junctions, but they’re well marked (I still always recommend having TrailForks or another navigation app downloaded to your phone).
The trail winds its way along the ridgeline of Newberry Caldera with occasional glimpses of Paulina Lake and East Lake. The terrain is undulating with short climbs, a super fun descent, and lots of mellow pedally stretches.
If you’ve packed a lunch, wait to eat it until you get to the lookout (you’ll know) at about mile 15. The views are stunning.
From the lookout, there’s some climbing before you get to the real treat of the whole ride: a four-mile descent back to your car. It’s a blast!
Best time to ride the Newberry Crater Rim Trail
Depending on how much snow Newberry Volcano has gotten, the Crater Rim Trail can be ridden as early as June or as late as July. I rode it in mid-July and it was perfect.
Summer is a great time to ride it as well, just be aware of the temps and plan your ride accordingly.
For fall, check the forecast for snow, but the loop can usually be ridden through September or later.
What to bring on your ride
For a complete list of what mountain bike gear to pack for your trip to Bend and the Newberry Crater, head over to my Complete Mountain Bike Trip Packing List and Mountain Bike Pack Essentials posts.
Here are a few essential items for mountain biking The Newberry Crater Rim Trail.
Newberry crater Rim Essentials
Snacks + Electrolytes
Load up on the snacks because this is a big ride with over 3,000 ft of climbing. I also recommend bringing a water bottle filled with electrolyte powder and/or some electrolyte chews.
Bring a hydration pack filled with at least three liters of water. There is no water along the trail, so you need to bring enough for 4-6 hours of riding.
While there are long stretches of shaded singletrack, there are also long stretches of exposed trail. Pack a small tube of sunscreen to protect your skin. If you want/need extra protection, wear a lightweight long sleeve jersey.
Newberry Crater Camping
There are several great campgrounds in and around Newberry Volcano National Monument if you want to make your ride into a nice getaway. There is the Paulina Lake Campground where the ride starts. This area gets pretty busy, but it has easy access to the water via a boat launch.
If you want a slightly quieter scene, check out the Little Crater Campground where you can score a site right on the water.
For a much quieter scene, McKay Crossing Campground is located away from the lakes, but on Pauline Creek. There is a vault toilet, but no water (other than the creek).
If you’re not into camping, there are also two lodges: East Lake Resort and Paulina Lake Lodge both of which have rustic summer camp vibes.
Other things to do at Newberry Crater
There are lots of other great outdoor recreation opportunities at Newberry Crater! If you have a few days to explore, here are some places and activities to check out:
Hike the Big Obsidian Flow Trail
I didn’t get to hike this 0.6-mile trail, but I wish I had! The Big Obsidian Flow Trail traverses through an obsidian lava flow with huge pieces of shiny rock lining the trail. It’s short, so if you have the time and energy at the end of your ride, I think it would be worth checking out.
Ride the Peter Skene Ogden Trail
The 8.4-mile Peter Skene Ogden Trail parallels Paulina Creek from Ogden Group Camp to Paulina Lake. It passes several beautiful waterfalls, volcano rock, and beautiful views.
This is an uphill-only trail, so you either need to get shuttled to the start or take the fire road that parallels the trail back down. There is almost 2,200 feet of climbing, so this trail is only for those who like to pedal!
Play on the water
Bring your kayak, canoe, or paddleboard and spend a day out on the water. You can also rent motor boats or kayaks and SUPs from Paulina Lake Lodge.
What questions do you have about mountain biking the Newberry Crater Rim Trail? Is this on your bike-it list? Let us know in the comments!
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