Paulina Falls is a terrific short hike, located just south of Bend, OR in the little-known Newberry National Volcanic Monument. While this “hike” is more of an easy stroll, the reward for the effort is fantastic.
The trail is less than half-mile in total (round-trip) with several options, including one with little elevation gain that heads to the top of the Paulina Falls. You can also head down to the bottom of Paulina Falls for a different perspective (with some elevation change). Additionally, you can make Paulina Falls part of a much longer hike (see the “Paulina Creek Falls Trail” information below).
The Newberry National Volcanic Monument takes a bit of effort to get to, but it is well worth it. If you happen to be spending some time in the monument, do yourself a favor and be sure to hike this short trail!
PAULINA FALLS TRAIL DETAILS
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 0.5 miles (round-trip)
- Trail: Out-and-back
- Elevation gain: 23 feet
- Peak elevation reached: 6,276 feet
- Best time of year to hike: Fall through spring
- To beat the crowds: Arrive before 10:00 am or after 3:30 pm
- Footwear: Sneakers
- Watch out for: Mosquitoes, sun exposure
- Restrooms: Located at the trailhead, but not on the trail
- Pets: Not allowed
- Time needed: 20 minutes
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE PAULINA FALLS TRAIL
The trailhead for the Paulina Falls Trail is located at the Paulina Falls Day Use Area on Newberry Crater Road. As you enter Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the Paulina Falls Day Use Area is on the left side of the road, just about 1.0 mile east of the entrance booth.
This part of Oregon does get snow and has the potential to be impacted by wildfires, so be sure to check the Deschutes National Forest Alert page to find out if this part of the forest is open and accessible. Access to the trail is usually open in June, but may be open earlier.
- Directions from Bend, OR to the Paulina Falls Day Use Area (this drive will take about 50 minutes, pending traffic).
- Directions from Crater Lake National Park to the Paulina Falls Day Use Area (this will take about 1 hour 45 minutes).
The Paulina Falls Day Use Area has approximately 30 parking spots. Since the hike that most people take is relatively short, the turnover here is high and spots open up frequently. If the parking lot is packed when you first arrive, just wait a few minutes and something should be available quickly.
There are restrooms in the parking area, but there are no restrooms while out on the trail.
HIKING TO PAULINA FALLS
The trail heads north from the parking lot and is paved. It is very accessible for visitors of all capabilities.
Immediately after leaving the parking area, the dull roar from Paulina Falls can be heard. After about one-tenth of a mile, the trail passes the Paulina Creek Falls Trail. A few feet later is a turnoff to the left, which allows you to hike down a little over 100 feet, aided by a set of switchbacks. This trail leads to the bottom of the falls. While this does provide a different perspective and the opportunity to reach the water, you’ll want to make sure you continue on the main part of the trail to the overlook as well for the best view of Paulina Falls.
Along the trail are many areas to sit and relax, making it a great place to have lunch or just people watch (as there are usually plenty of people on the trail!). There are also many picnic spots along the way.
The trail comes to an overlook, which is a fantastic spot to view Paulina Falls. Paulina Falls is actually a set of two side-by-side waterfalls (which drop nearly 80 feet in all), making it a spectacular site and something that is quite rare in nature.
The overlook does have guardrails, but keep an eye on your children as those who want to squirm through the railing can do so, and they will get injured if they fall through.
HOW PAULINA FALLS WERE FORMED
When the Newberry Volcano erupted (approximately 75,000 years ago), is the result of erosion from water flowing from Paulina Lake through Paulina Creek. Paulina Falls continues to change with erosion. As recently as 1983, a large chunk of rock fell due to the continuous freezing and thawing that occurs in this area.
Paulina Falls continues to creep closer and closer to Paulina Lake. However, don’t worry-they won’t change much in our lifetime and will be here for everyone to enjoy for years to come.
WHAT TO DO NEARBY PAULINA FALLS
The Paulina Falls Day Use Area is right near the entrance to the monument, but there is still plenty to do while you are in the area.
- The Lava Lands Visitor Center is just up the road about 0.5 miles. This is a small building, but it contains maps and a small store. The highlight, though, is the help that is run by the knowledgeable and friendly staff that is willing to help you with any questions you have.
- The Paulina Creek Falls Trail starts about 5 miles to the west. This out-and-back trail is moderately difficult, and climbs about 700 feet over the length of the hike before ending at Paulina Falls.
- The Paulina Lake Loop Trail begins at the Paulina Lake Parking Area, about 0.4 miles east of the Paulina Falls Day Use Area. This trail is not challenging, but it loops around Paulina Lake and has a total distance of 7.5 miles. The trail gains about 425 feet in elevation, with the bulk of the elevation gain happening over a 0.5-mile distance on the north side of the lake.
- If you are really up for a challenge, hike the Crater Rim Trail. This trail climbs a total of 3,000 feet while it makes a 19.8-mile loop around the rim of the volcano. Most of the uphill climb takes place over the first 4 miles.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON NEWBERRY NATIONAL VOLCANIC MONUMENT AND THE SURROUNDING AREA
- Make sure you check out our blog on What to See and Do in Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Another great hike is the Big Obsidian Flow.
- There is a ton to see and do in Oregon, and one of our favorite places is Crater Lake National Park. Ahead of your trip, download a copy of our Crater Lake National Park Itinerary to help you out with your planning. We cover the best hikes, what to pack and what to see and do in the area.
- Other great spots to visit in Oregon include the Oregon Coast: check out our blogs, What to See and Do in Ecola State Park and What to Do along the Oregon Coast.You also should check our favorite trail in Smith Rock State Park, the Misery Ridge Trail.
- We’ve worked hard to create quite a large collection of WPA Style Posters, including our Newberry National Volcanic Monument poster.
- When you get back from your trip make sure you send us a photo so we can make a custom, vintage-style travel poster for you!