Newberry Crater: 3 day ramble

Reminder: clicking on pics will display 90% resolution pic

The original plan to hike Trinity Alps this week was changed after my hiking buddy caught a bug (not Covid); so with gear all packed up and the motor running, I headed over the Cascades to Newberry National Volcanic Monument (US FS Site) for some ‘before the opening’ hiking. The plan was to start at McKay Crossing on Paulina Creek, hike up into the crater around the lakes and then around the rim. GaiaGPS NOAA overlay showed ‘no snow’.

When I arrived, I found McKay Crossing, a great place to start the long (6 mile) hike up to the lower crater rim at Paulina Creek outflow and the Paulina Lake Resort. The first day I hiked from McKay to Cinder Hill realizing that fishing people were everywhere, the facilities in poor repair hardly ready for June 11 opening, but I did find one good place to camp (the Group Campground had the road gate closed as was devoid of fishing people). I quickly realized that Newberry is NOT for backpacking and in fact hardly for hiking more than 4-5 miles at any 1 time – backpackers avoid ‘seasonal’ activity and go before / after. Sadly, a sorry excuse for a hiking trail (really a x-country ski trail) is the only path from Paulina to East lake … as a result I spent day 2 and 3 completely at Paulina Lake.

I tried to climb the Rim Trail 3x and each time ran into too much snow between 6,500-7,000 elevation and could not go on. Day 1 from Cinder Hill trail, day 2 from Paulina Lake resort clockwise and day 3 counter-clockwise. Maybe that NOAA overlay on GaiaGPS is not that accurate?

For those of you who visited Crater Lake – Newberry (once upon a time was BIGGER). Because I couldn’t get up on the rim, it was hard to grasp the scale of the caldera. However, once inside the rim, magic … lakes, peaks, snow, hot springs, and … fishing people with dogs in their boats (they were catching fish too – rainbow and brown trout mostly).

Birds were everywhere and I helped an Osprey chase away a tormenting immature bald eagle that was just waiting to steal Osprey’s catch. The osprey feinted a catch once but the eagle didn’t leave until I approached. The osprey nest was right above my campsite night 1. There were at least 2-3 bald eagles yet I think only 1 osprey pair. Look closely at the woodpecker – lunch is served!

Air was highly unstable all 3 days with morning nicer than afternoon. Monday late evening rained some but other than a bit cold in the morning, weather was great for hiking. The sky, however, did things that I cannot explain.

Hiking up / down Paulina Creek was well worth the time and I took the full trip 2x. There are at least 3-4 different sub-forests along the creek, and the creek (right season) was flowing with the recent rain and melt. Only the last time down on day 3 did I encounter more than 2-3 other hikers on this path.

Hiking Summary: Newberry is not for long hikes, not for backpacking, and a hiker (if during camping season) will encounter all kinds of RV, boat and fishing people within the caldera – not a quiet escape. The lake water is also not that clean. But going before opening, I was able to see a great deal that maybe 2 weeks later would not be there. The birds and the geology made it worthwhile, but only pre-season. I would also avoid post-season, as the damage from summer will be telling, imho.

The trails:

  • Peter Skene Ogden Trail (All Trails) – 6 miles one way from McKay Crossing to Paulina Creek outflow along Paulina Creek. Great waterfalls and highly popular in hot season for creek swimming. In ‘hot’ weather, I’d go down in morning and up in afternoon to keep sun in back – it could be HOT!
  • Paulina Lakeshore Loop (All Trails) – 7ish miles around the lakeshore. There are a couple of ups / downs to go where the lakeshore is not passable. There are hot springs (totally worth the miles) about 4 miles from the creek’s outlet. Past the hot springs, the trail goes through campgrounds and follows the road – skip it, turn around at the hot springs and go back.
  • Newberry Crater Trail (All Trails) – this is to be avoided! It’s a x-country ski trail and has be highly damaged by salvage logging and for several miles goes underneath electrical wires following their right-way. While advertised as the ‘hikers’ link’ between the lakes, it’s really not.
  • Crater Rim Trail (All Trails) – not enough miles on it to have an opinion – snow contraint.

GaiaGPS Stats

Day 1 (Map)

Day 2 (Map)

Day 3 (Map)

3 Responses

  • Have yet to see Crater Lake, too much snow when we were there! Believe it was late June. Looking forward to maybe more pictures.

  • If the snow overlays for your maps were not accurate you may have dodged a bad experience on the PCT. Glad you got outside, wish Trinity trip turned out better for us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.