Situated on the edge of the beautiful Paulina Lake, Little Crater Campground is conveniently located within Newberry National Monument. Visitors to this area are taken aback by the incredible views this area has to offer, highlighting volcanic landscapes intermixed with diverse forests, typical of central Oregon.
Popular for both its geological significance and multitude of recreational activities, Little Crater Campground is ideal for individual and family camping excursions. If you are visiting Oregon with the aim of getting the best camping experience, this might be it. Offering campsites next to Paulina Lake, activities available at this campground include hiking, bird watching, bicycling, sightseeing and access to nearby trails.
Paulina Lake is located within the collapsed crater, or “caldera” of Newberry Volcano. Nearly five miles in diameter, this caldera encircles the basins of Paulina Lake and its twin, East Lake.
Neither lake receives water from an inlet or stream - instead both rely on rain, snowmelt and hot springs for water. Paulina Creek flows from the lake and has chiseled a narrow gorge through the calderas west wall creating a remarkable twin waterfall. Thermal vents and hot springs along the lakes northeast edge help create a highly productive ecosystem.
The surrounding undeveloped wilderness, clean streams and diverse forests support a variety of wildlife, including porcupine, bighorn sheep, deer, bats native fish, migratory birds and even the occasional black bear.
The unique location of Little Crater Campground offers visitors opportunities to hike shoreline trails and alpine vistas.
Visitors can also take advantage of time on the lake, boating, kayaking, swimming and fishing.
For anglers, this lake offers fantastic fishing opportunities. Spanning a surface area of 1,531 acres, the lake supports rainbow trout, brown trout and Kokanee salmon.
In September, the outlet of Paulina Lake may be choked with Kokanee moving to spawn in Paulina Creek.
There are 50 sites located on a fairly thin ledge right on the lake and all the campground sites are within a minute walk to the water. The sites are ample sized and most are good for tents, trailers or RVs.
Picnic areas, boating, shoreline trails, and stunning views of the lake, along with the conveniences of drinking water and vault toilets, give visitors the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while still having many of the conveniences of home.
Lava Lands Visitor Center in nearby Bend, Oregon, is a great starting point for visitors to learn about the diverse landscape and history of the area through interpretive programs and exhibits.
Visitors can explore the Lava River Cave, also located in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. At 5,211 feet (1,588 m) in length, the northwest section of the cave is the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon.
This is a beautiful spot but it's fairly open without a lot of privacy. It can be pretty windy, too. We weren't lucky enough to get a spot right on the water, which was OK because it was less windy away from the water. The campground is basically one long strip with sites on the left (as you drive in) being on the water and campsites on the right being up against a hill. You can still see the water from the sites on the right and you have the added benefit of a bit of privacy because of the hill behind the sites. Our site, site 30, was right next to the toilet which is not my favorite thing in the world but other than that it was a fine site. The camphosts were extremely nice and helpful.
There is a lot to do in this area. We did the 8 mile hike around the lake which was absolutely stunning. We passed the hot springs but didn't go in…kind of looked like sad mud puddles when we saw them. We rented a canoe from the lodge and canoed across the lake- found a great, private little beach to swim at.
All in all, maybe not my favorite campground in the world, but the sheer beauty and things to do make up for it.
This campground is good if you have an RV, or don't really care about privacy. The Camphosts were very involved. The views of Paulina lake are nice and if you have "lake toys" you will enjoy it. The trail to the hot springs isn't horrible, but isn't the easiest. The hot springs themselves are nice, the closer to the trail, the hotter they are.
More busy and crowded than we like, however Little Crater has returned from a trashed local party spot to a lovely campground. Kudos to the Forest Service for managing it's own properties!
The lake is comfortable, thanks to geothermal activity. It's at 6500 ft so it gets chilly at night. Wind off the water also. I would give it a 5 star if not for the chill.
This is an awesome campground for stargazing. Much more open than Paulina Lake Campground on the other end of the lake, and a direct view to the sunset.
However, things to keep in mind:
- It's more open in terms of trees in the sites so it gets windy (a lot) and there is little to no shade in some of the sites. If you are bringing your popup shade, I highly recommend upgraded stakes.
- The water access at some of the sites is a bit more difficult - especially with heavier kayaks. It's also more windy on this end of the lake so a tougher paddle.
- Sites are smaller (relative) and closer together, but almost all have good/great lake views (except 30/31/32 - which are by the toilet and have a stand of trees between them and the lake).
- Almost all are pull-through and fairly level for parking, which is great.
Lots of white flies, but no biting…just everywhere.
Will definitely come back to this campground during a meteor shower! We were at Paulina for the Perseids, and you had to go out to the end of the dock for a big sky view.
Saturday Night in July, #33. Just me and the ladies on a quick overnight getaway. This spot isn’t technically on the water, but there is no site across from you, it might as well be lakefront. It’s tucked up against a hill and surrounded by trees, so it was easy to find shade throughout the day. There’s a picnic table & an L-shaped firepit with a grill - this trip, the grill had broken off the pit and was lying in the dirt. Still functional but didn’t flip over properly. The pit is surrounded by a few tree stumps that work well as seats & tables.
Most importantly, access to the water is quick & easy, the sun was high but not too hot, and the temperature of the lake was perfect.
We glamped here in our 32 foot c class motor home on October 13. Super quite as it is deep in the National Forest. Dry camping only. There is a dump close to the park entrance for $10.00 but no potable fill or Sani flush water was working when we were there. Fun hikes all around.
Great cg if you can get a site has great access to the water and the Paulina lake trail. Also is the trailhead for the hot springs which are rather shallow but very hot!
What an amazing weekend! We got SO lucky and found the ONLY walk up site on the 4th of July. Snagged it as the ground before was pulling out. It must have been fate because we needed this beauty of a weekend to relax and recharge.
So the campground itself is long and skinny. Which is nice because although it was completely full, the campsites are spread out and EVERY SINGLE SITE is either on the water or has a water view. This campground sits on the inside of Newberry National Volcanic Monuments sunken caldera on the shores of Paulina lake. Although we didn’t have any luck fishing, supposedly the rainbow trout are abundant and can be caught from shore.
We snagged campsite number 31. At first I was bummed because it was on the other side of the road from the water but after the weekend I can tell you that this site is PERFECT for a warm weekend. Our site was in the shade most of the day but there is no campsite directly across from us so the lake was in clear view and we could walk down there with ease.
Oh and can’t leave out how awesome our camp host was. Jeff!! Checked on us regularly. Was friendly and made sure the toilets stayed clean.
We will definitely be coming back.
This CG is right on Paulina lake in the middle of Newberry Crater. There are 50 sites along the shoreline. They all have the standard picnic table and fire ring. We had the first site on the left as you enter the CG. It had a great view of the lake and surrounding ridgeline and Paulina Peak. It also allows for a wonderful sunset.
The campground is generally crowded. The sites are decent but you will have other campers relatively close, The CG is easily accessed by foot, car or boat. It does have a boat ramp. RV's / Campers can get into most sites. There are 5 Vault toilets, drinking water, no showers, no hook ups. each site is in close walking distance to the lake. The CG is accessible to various trails in the area including the Big Obsidian Flow trail. A bonus hike should be taken to the Paulina Lake hot springs on the north side of the lake. You can also get to the hot springs by boat.
The good: Dogs allowed, sites directly on the lake, huge site! The 5-yr-old had a great time and the geriatric dog thoroughly enjoyed the lake. Nice hiking in the park and not too far from LaPine.
The bad: The site is on volcanic land, and the campsite is are pretty heavy on fine, silt-like dirt that gets into everything. Ground vegetation is Sparse and full of ants, which is fine if you’re in an RV but not great for tent camping.
The Ugly: The lake allows motorized boats which are disruptive. The posted lake speed limit is 10mph but is not enforced. The park also ran out of annual passes (interagency) so we had to buy day passes.