About Paulina Falls
Paulina Falls (also known as Paulina Creek Falls) was essentially a two-segment 100ft tall twin waterfall tumbling below the caldera rim of the Newberry Volcano.
Often mistakenly called the Newberry Crater, the falls was our main reason for visiting what is said to be the largest volcano in the Cascade Range (and the reason behind the Newberry National Volcanic Monument).
This waterfall offered a handful of ways to experience it, and I’ll get into each of these methods for the rest of this post.
The Bottom of Paulina Falls
From the Paulina Falls Day Use parking lot (see directions below), I was able to walk past the restroom facility towards a signed trail fork.
Keeping left at the fork, the trail descended about 1/4-mile to the banks of Paulina Creek, where there was a lookout area fronted by fallen rocks looking up at the waterfalls.
Signs discouraged off-trail scrambling onto the loose volcanic boulders to attempt to get a closer look, and I adhered to the rules.
Even though the falls may be 100ft, from this perspective, a large part of the overall height of the falls comprised of the creek somewhat hiding beneath the loose boulders.
And this ultimately made the falls appear shorter than it really was.
Since I made my visit to Paulina Falls in the mid-morning, I was fortunate to have showed up just before the sun breached the cliffs because I would have looked directly against the sun.
So I managed to get some photos while strategically using nearby trees to shield me from the morning sun to buy me more time for my viewing pleasure.
However, once there was nothing more I could do about the morning sun going against me, that was when I had my fill of this spot and headed back up to the trail fork.
Looking Across The Near Side of Paulina Falls
Just a few minutes walk (0.1-mile) on the other side of the trail fork, I managed to reach the nearest overlook area, which featured a rest bench and some interpretive signs.
In addition, there were a handful of picnic tables shaded by tall trees.
The lookout in this area was pretty much across the width of Paulina Falls, and since the sun was sidelighting the area, I didn’t have as much difficulty viewing and photographing the falls from here.
While I was all alone at the lower lookout, this upper lookout consistently had foot traffic, which made the viewing experience a bit dicey given the limited real-estate and COVID-19 threat.
For most of the people I saw who came here, this lookout was sufficient for their Paulina Falls experience.
And if that was the case, then this would essentially be like a roadside waterfall because it wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to fully enjoy the falls in this limited fashion.
Looking Across The Far Side of Paulina Falls
While I stared at Paulina Falls from the main upper lookout, I couldn’t help but notice that there was another lookout on the opposite side of the falls.
As tempting as it was to find a shortcut to scramble across Paulina Creek to reach the trail leading to that lookout on the other side, I ultimately opted to do the sanctioned long way.
This involved hiking further upstream past the main upper lookout for about 0.3-mile towards the road bridge over Paulina Creek, where I managed to get a teasing glimpse of Paulina Lake.
I then had to walk across the road bridge before going downstream on another developed trail for about 0.3-mile, which ultimately led to that overlook of Paulina Falls on its opposite side.
From this vantage point, I was looking against the late morning sun again, and I’d imagine afternoons would yield the best lighting in general as far as this waterfall was concerned.
But after having my fill of this spot, I returned back the way I came, which made this hike on the order of about 1.2-1.4 miles round-trip.
Overall, I spent just under 2 hours to take in all three ways of experiencing Paulina Falls.
Paulina Falls (or Paulina Creek Falls) resides in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument in the Deschutes National Forest near Bend in Deschutes County, Oregon. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Paulina Falls (or Paulina Creek Falls) was near the town of Bend so I’ll describe the driving directions from there.
Heading south on the US97 from downtown Bend, we drove for about 24 miles to the well-signed turnoff for the Newberry Caldera Paulina-East Lakes.
Then, we continued driving for about 10 miles where we were greeted by an entrance kiosk, which took our Interagency Pass (typically a Northwest Pass or a day-use fee would be involved).
Beyond this kiosk, we continued roughly another 1.4 miles to the Paulina Falls Day Use Area on the left, which had a fairly sizable parking lot.
Overall, this drive took us about an hour, which wasn’t too bad considering Bend was turning out to be quite the fine location for activities in Central Oregon.
For geographical context, Bend was 143 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) south of Hood River, 128 miles (about 2.5 hours drive) east of Eugene, 173 miles (over 3 hours drive) northeast of Medford, 162 miles (over 3 hours drive) southeast of Portland, and 319 miles (over 5 hours drive) west of Boise, Idaho.
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