Paulina Lake Loop
Paulina Lake Loop
Transparent turquoise water, generous shoreline access, and sunny skies all summer long make Paulina Lake a must-see destination just south of Bend, Oregon. One of two lakes located in the remains of Newberry Crater, Paulina is popular for recreation users of all kinds, evidenced by a busy lakeshore dotted with boat launches, campgrounds, picnic areas, and even a year-round lodge complete with cabins and a general store. A relatively flat shoreline trail travels the distance around the lake and can be accomplished as an easy day hike or trail run.
Although the route can be started from any point along the lake, we have found the day use area across the street from the Visitor Center to be ideal. From the trailhead signage, head counter-clockwise around the lake, weaving your way through campgrounds for the first couple miles. The trail is infrequently marked, sometimes disappears into the lake altogether, and varies in quality from loose sand to hard pack single track. If you lose the trail, head towards the lake and continue along the shoreline until your reconnect with the main trail.
At 2.5 miles, reach an intersection with a boat launch. To continue on the shoreline trail, follow the signs onto the road until you quickly reconnected with the trail. For a fun and easy variation, head right (away from the lake) and join up with the signed Little Crater Trail. This trail rises above the lake a few hundred feet to the top of a small cinder cone. Signs will direct you on a short loop of the summit and then back down to the main trail.
At this point you'll experience more seclusion as the trail leaves the campground areas and frequently traverses away from the water's edge, even passing through a small field of black obsidian rock as it makes its way along the east side of the lake. Shortly after the obsidian field the path climbs a series of mild switchbacks on the north side of the lake where you can enjoy views of Paulina Peak to the south, and then quickly drops down to the shoreline again.
Continue on through a series of rental and vacation homes before running into the Paulina Lake Lodge back on the west side of the lake. If you’re feeling famished at this point the restaurant and general store can help you refuel, but at this point you only have a quarter mile left in the loop. Follow the main gravel road to a bridge. On the other side of the bridge the trail resumes and after a short walk through the final campground you will be reunited with the trailhead, ending your loop.
Permits & Tips
How to get there
From Bend, Oregon, head south on US-97 for 23.5 miles. Turn left (east) onto Paulina Lake Road (Road 21) and follow for 12.75 miles to the Visitor Center at the Southeast corner of the lake. Just past the Visitor Center, take a left and park in the day use parking lot officially called the Paulina Lake Picnic Site.