One of a set of two crater lakes in the Newberry Caldera in Central Oregon, Paulina Lake makes for a great autumnal getaway. Although the lake sits at 6,340 feet, it has a secret hot spring tucked in a quiet corner of reeds and water. And if that isn’t reason enough to get you to visit, there’s also a beautiful 7.8-mile loop around the lake, as well as nearby camping options.
The geographic history of the area is similar to the more famous Crater Lake – a volcano core collapsed, and the resulting crater filled with water. Over time, continued lava flows separated the crater into two bodies of water, Paulina Lake and East Lake.
The Paulina Lake Shoreline Trail starts off on the western side of the Newberry Caldera, right along the rocky shoreline of the lake. It’s rough yet picturesque terrain, with wide skies and beautiful basalt structures to take in along the way. The shoreline is hemmed with lodgepole pines, mountain hemlock, and a mixture of fir trees.
The trail takes hikers along the Inter Lake Flow (the lava flow dividing the caldera) and loops around the other side. It’s here that the ground become more marshy, populated with soft grasses and reeds. And just over a mile past the Inter Lake Flow you’ll come across an idyllic beach hot springs. It’s very much left to its natural state, only slightly built out with logs. You’ll find the water somewhere around 95 degrees, and almost entirely without the sulfuric scent hot springs are known for. It’s tranquil and rarely populated, but more adventurous hot spring-ers can head another half mile down the beach and dig out custom hot springs right on the beach.
Those looking for camping options after all that hiking and soaking are in luck, as there are a few backcountry campsites roughly 1 mile west of North Beach. This is the best spot for views of nearby features, including Diamond Peak, Paulina Peak and Mount Thielsen. And for a terrific sunrise, just hike up to the top of Little Crater early the next day – it’s worth getting out of your sleeping bag for, trust me.
A $5/vehicle day use pass is required from the Forest Service from May 1 to Sept. 30 (free the rest of the year). You can also purchase an annual pass for $30. Learn more about the passes and where to get them here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd509056.pdf