Photo © Carrie Uffindell
By Carrie Uffindell
Part of Central Oregon’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument in the Deschutes National Forest, Lava Lands and its environs whisks visitors back in geological time.
Begin your visit at Lava Lands Visitor Center (open most days May through early October), located at the base of Lava Butte. The center is filled with interactive displays, topographic maps and educational films about the area’s cultural and volcanic history. From here, rangers guide interpretive walks twice daily. Behind the visitor center is the Trail of Molten Land, a one-mile, self-guided loop that meanders through the lava fields; the first portion of this trail is wheelchair accessible.
Then drive the 1.75-mile paved road to the top of Lava Butte (elevation 5,020 feet) and enjoy wide-angle views of the remains of Mt. Newberry and the surrounding lava fields. Circle the butte’s 60-foot crater on the .25-mile unpaved Lava Butte Rim Trail. (Ask for a parking pass at the main entrance. Parking at the butte is limited to 30 minutes.)
Oregon’s longest lava tube that’s open to visitors, Lava River Cave, is located less than two miles south of the visitor center. Roughly 5,000 feet long, it was formed 80,000 years ago by a river of molten lava. Well-maintained trails and sturdy stairways help visitors negotiate this subterranean world, home to echoing corridors, ancient sand gardens, rock-filled valleys and volcanic stalactites. The cave isn’t lit so rangers recommend carrying a light source. (Lanterns are available for rent at the visitor center.) Cave temperatures are chilly; wear warm clothing and sturdy shoes.
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