Horse camping at the Newberry Volcanic Monument is truly a unique experience. The variation of scenery, terrain, and access to amenities is unmatched compared almost any other location in Central Oregon. Yet, almost every summer we head to Chief Paulina Horse Camp, the only horse camp within the caldera, and there is almost no one else using the camp. We often visit on holiday weekends because it’s a first come, first serve camp (fee $14-18). When all other camps are likely full we have never failed to get a nice spot at Chief Paulina Horse Camp. In fact, many times we’ve had the whole place to ourselves. Although solitude can be nice for us, I get concerned when I see such a great camp woefully under utilized. If we don’t use it we just might lose it. So, set aside a little time this summer to visit this wonderful camp and experience this incredible national monument that’s right in our back yard.
Things to keep in mind
Many of the spots in the campground are best suited to smaller trailers and RVs. There are only a couple of camping sites suited to 30+ foot rigs. The spaces closer to the entrance are more suited to larger vehicles and trailers.
It’s a great place to go during hunting season as hunting is prohibited inside the crater.
There is no drinking water, only stock water is available in the camp ground.
Cell phone service is spotty at best so don’t plan on calling people or getting internet once you get there.
What are the trails like?
There is a good variation of trails that range from very easy to very difficult. The trails that stay lower in the basin tend to be wide and flat with good footing. As you gain elevation the trails can get more difficult, with switch backs and steeper terrain. Look at your trail map carefully and pay attention to the elevation lines when you’re choosing your route.
The Peter Skeene Ogden Trail is probably the most well-know trail and it is beautiful. You ride along the falls most of the way. Keep in mind it is a well known trail with easy access for hikers and bikers at both ends. On a holiday weekend be prepared to pass families, dogs and bikes perty much non-stop. It’s an out and back - not a loop - so you may pass people going both directions. It’s also narrow in places and getting off-trail too far, or having to turn around, can be a challenge. I would suggest conquering this particular trail off season or mid-week during busy summer months.
What to do when you’re not riding?
Eastlake and Paulina lake are both in the crater and renowned for their unique fishing opportunities. Both lakes were formed by ancient volcanic activity in the caldera. Deep, cool waters support a variety of fish habitat that has anglers traveling from all over to give it a go. Boat rentals are available at both Paulina Lake and East Lake.
Hike the Big Obsidian Flow
The obsidian is dangerous for horses so the only trail that gets near it skirts the east flank. You can see it from horseback but not like you can see it on foot. Let the horses rest back at the corrals and hike the obsidian flow to get a closer look at this amazing geological formation.
The hot springs
The hot springs at East Lake are a really unique experience. It’s a short hike along the southeast edge of the lake from the boat launch. There are no signs marking the way so you may have to ask for directions at the nearby store. When you get there you’ll find a rocky beach with hand dug primitive pools filled with bubbling hot water. If they are a little too shallow or not warm enough feel-free to dig them out deeper with a board or your hands or take a camp shovel with you. If they get a little too warm open up a pathway for the lake water to flow in. It’s a fun excursion for everyone and good on the muscles after a long day in the saddle.