Oregon has an amazing variety of landscapes – think of all you can see in Oregon… ocean beaches, Sahara-like sand dunes, snowy mountain peaks, high plains deserts, deep wooded forests, the cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge, towering waterfalls, painted rocks, and volcanic lava beds. The lava beds of Central Oregon are a geological wonder to see. There is something out-of-this-world about walking through the trails at the Big Obsidian Flow and at Newberry Volcanic Monument in Central Oregon. It feels so foreign and magical – shiny black rocks – smooth to the touch – surround you as you walk the guided trails. You don’t want to go off path as these rocks can be super sharp too. It feels more like a moonscape than someplace in the “rainy” Pacific Northwest.
The Big Obsidian rock flow is the result of a volcanic eruption and a mere 1,300 years old. Just 40 miles southeast from Bend and off Highway 97 in Central Oregon, it is a must-see stop on a tour of Oregon. There is a one-mile interpretive trail that takes you into the flow covered in obsidian and pumice. A little closer to Bend is the Newberry Volcanic Monument – a spot where you can have terrific views over the landscape and see the volcanic history up close. Both sites require a parking pass from the Deschutes National Forest Service or an annual NW Forest Service Pass. The Lava Lands Visitor Center right by Newberry Volcanic Monument is a great resource and a good first stop (open seasonally.)
A central Oregon highlight trail would hit Crater lake, The Big Obsidian Flow near Paulina Lake, the Newberry Volcanic Monument, Peter Ogden Skene State Park over the Crooked River, then on to Hwy 26 and over Mt. Hood to Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge. Without stopping, the drive from Crater Lake to Hood River takes about 5 hours, so you need to plan a full day for this drive, because you will want to stop along the way!