Newberry Crater Rim

Directions: From U.S. Highway 97, turn east onto Forest Road 21 just north of La Pine. Follow the road for 15 miles to Paulina Lake Campground. Cross the road on bike to Forest Road 500, which leads to the top of Paulina Peak and the start of the singletrack loop. (To avoid the climb up the peak, take two cars and park one at the campground, then drive up Paulina Peak with your bikes.) A $5 fee is required to enter the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. (One hour from Bend).

Trail features: A classic Central Oregon ride circling the rim of the Newberry caldera. Panoramic views of Paulina Lake, East Lake and Paulina Peak, as well as of the Cascade Range. Lots of climbing and loose singletrack through sections of pumice.

Distance: About 20 miles (17 miles without the climb up Paulina Peak); three to five hours.

Rating: Aerobically strenuous and technically intermediate.

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NEWBERRY NATIONAL VOLCANIC MONUMENT — Call it “earning your turns,” mountain bike style.

Much like backcountry skiers will climb mountains to ski down the most pristine slopes, I would ride my mountain bike up a prominent peak to reach some truly special singletrack.

To get to the Newberry Crater Rim Loop Trail, first you must get to the trail near the summit of 7,987-foot Paulina Peak. Shuttling with two vehicles is one option: leaving one at the bottom, then driving the other to the top.

But I decided that this time I would ride my bike up the 1,700-foot climb to the top of Paulina Peak — a sheer, rocky outcropping popular with extreme skiers in the wintertime.

The ride up the gravel road was a steady slog, but manageable. Taking my time, I required about an hour to reach the singletrack near the summit. The only problem was, the climbing did not end there. The rim trail, about 20 miles long, includes some challenging climbs even after the ride up Paulina.

The singletrack that circles the rim of Newberry Crater starts 500 vertical feet below the summit. The loop, best ridden counterclockwise, ends at Paulina Lake Resort.

The ride offers majestic views of the ancient Newberry caldera, 17 square miles and 1,000 feet deep in most places. Sitting in the caldera are trout-filled Paulina and East lakes and several lava beds.

Newberry is one of the most intriguing volcanic areas in a region filled with such places, so riding a mountain bike around the entire rim on mostly singletrack makes for a memorable day.

The trailhead just below the summit of Paulina Peak is well-hidden. But I found it with little trouble.

The first part of the trail is rocky and a bit technical, and it climbs eastward along a ridgeline just south of the lakes. Below me was Big Obsidian Flow, a huge mass of gray lava rock formed about 1,400 years ago when, according to informational material provided by the U.S. Forest Service, the Paulina Lake ash flow spread from near the south caldera wall to Paulina Lake.

Eventually the riding surface turned from dirt to pumice as I advanced along the trail and began descending the ridge. The loose terrain felt almost like popcorn as my tires dug into the light gravel. One small lapse in concentration and the uneven, unpredictable pumice would make me pay.

About 1,600 years ago, one of the Newberry Volcano’s many eruptions produced the Newberry pumice-fall deposit, which blanketed the east flank of the volcano with the pumice there today, according to the Forest Service.

I made it through the pumice section unscathed and arrived at the east end of the loop, which is marked by a section of wide, flat trail that allowed me to gain considerable speed.

After climbing once again, toward the north side of the loop, I finally arrived at a wide-open area that offered a sprawling view of the entire Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

East Lake sat just below. Towering above the lake was the signature of the monument where my ride began, Paulina Peak.

From the viewpoint, I continued on to the north side of the loop, which took me on a steady climb through thick forest. On this side of the loop, the trail connects with the Swamp Wells Trail, which leads north all the way to Horse Butte, in southeast Bend.

After more than three hours of riding that included plenty of climbing, I was ready for the 6-mile downhill stretch that would take me back to my car at Paulina Lake Campground.

After some rain, the trail was in prime condition, firm and tacky and easily ridable. Recent hot and dry conditions have likely made the trail more sandy, but trail conditions should improve with some rain and milder temperatures.

I finally arrived back at my car, 4 hours and 15 minutes after I began. It was an exhausting ride, but seeing such dramatic landscape from the seat of a mountain bike made it well worth the effort.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,