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Paulina Lake: A Visitor's Guide

Located in the heart of the Deschutes National Forest in Central Oregon, Paulina Lake is a stunning destination that offers a range of recreational activities for tourists and locals. Surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and geological formations, Paulina Lake is located in the caldera of the Newberry Volcano. At an elevation of 6,331 feet, Paulina Lake is one of the highest lakes in Oregon. The lake is situated inside a caldera, a volcanic crater that was formed over 75,000 years ago. The caldera is part of the Newberry Volcano, which is considered an active but dormant volcano. To get to Paulina Lake, visitors can take the Paulina Lake Road off Highway 97. The nearest town is La Pine, which is about 20 miles away.

Paulina Lake

Paulina Lake: At a Glance

  • Location: Deschutes County, Oregon

  • Nearest Town/City: La Pine

  • Elevation: 6,331 ft

  • Family Friendly? Yes

  • Camping: Yes, tent and RV camping nearby

  • Shore Length: 7 miles

To Do at Paulina Lake

Here are a few of the most popular activities to do at and near the lake:


Paulina Lake is a popular fishing destination known for its abundant kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. The lake is stocked regularly, and visitors can fish from the shore or a boat. A valid Oregon fishing license is required.


Visitors can rent a boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard from one of the local marinas or bring their own. Paulina Lake's calm waters make it perfect for boating, and the stunning views of the surrounding landscape make it a memorable experience.

View of Paulina Lake

Paulina Lake is surrounded by several hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding wilderness.

One of the most popular trails is the Paulina Lake Trail, a 7-mile loop trail that takes visitors around the entire lake. Another popular trail is the Paulina Falls Trail which takes you to a popular overlook spot and is only 0.5 miles long.

The area around Paulina Lake offers several campgrounds for visitors to choose from. The Newberry National Volcanic Monument offers several campgrounds, including Eastshore Campground and Prairie Campground.

The campgrounds offer both tent and RV camping.

Wildlife Viewing

Visitors to Paulina Lake can spot a variety of wildlife in the area, including bald eagles, osprey, beavers, and river otters. Visitors should bring binoculars and observe wildlife from a safe distance.

Cliffsides around Paulina Lake

Tips for Visitors

If you're planning a visit to Paulina Lake, here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Pack appropriately: The weather in the area can be unpredictable, so it's important to pack for a range of conditions. Bring layers and waterproof gear in case of rain, as well as sun protection like sunscreen and hats.

  • Check for permits and regulations: Depending on the activities you plan to do, you may need to obtain permits or follow certain regulations. For example, if you plan to fish, you'll need a valid Oregon fishing license.

  • Be mindful of wildlife: Visitors should be respectful of the wildlife in the area and observe from a safe distance. Do not feed or approach animals, and store food securely to avoid attracting bears and other animals.

  • Respect the environment: Visitors should practice Leave No Trace principles and pack out all trash and waste. Do not disturb the natural environment, and stay on designated trails to avoid damaging fragile ecosystems.

  • Be prepared for high elevation: Paulina Lake is located at a high elevation, which can cause altitude sickness in some visitors. Be sure to drink plenty of water and take breaks if needed.

  • Plan ahead: The area around Paulina Lake can get busy during peak season, so it's important to plan ahead and make reservations for camping and other activities. Check for road closures and other updates before you go.

Paulina Lake in Winter
The area around Paulina Lake can get busy during peak season.

Camping at Paulina Lake

Here are a few of Traverse the Pacific Northwest's recommendations for places to camp near Paulina Lake:

East Lake Campground

East Lake Campground offers 29 single sites near Paulina Lake and the Newberry Volcano. The campground has space for tents, trailers, and RVs. The sites are all pretty close to the water and can be a bit windy. But the fishing is great!

Little Crater Campground

Little Crater Campground on the edge of Paulina Lake is a beautiful, very convenient campsite. It has 49 sites for RVs, tents, and trailers. The campground is only open during summer, though.

McKay Crossing Campground

The McKay Crossing Campground is another good option near the lake. It's somewhat more secluded than the other two campgrounds and is popular among birders. The campground does not offer electric sites, but there is room for trailers and RVs.

Paulina Lake blue
The McKay Crossing Campground near the lake is a good, quiet option.

Prairie Campground

At $19 a night, this campground is a good, affordable option in the area. It is located off Country Road 21 near the Newberry Caldera. You should be aware that there is no water at this time in the campground and that you can make reservations online.

Hiking Near Paulina Lake

Here are a few of our recommendations for hikes if you're visiting the lake:

Paulina Lakeshore Trail

This is the most popular hike near Paulina Lake. It's long at 7.5 miles but gains little elevation, so it's still considered to be pretty easy. The trail takes you around the entire lake and usually takes about 3 hours to finish.

The Expansive Paulina Lake
The Paulina Lakeshore Trail is the most popular trail at the lake.

Trail of the Molten Land

Also known as Trail #3922, this short, easy trail takes you through a truly unique volcanic landscape. It's only 1 mile long and should take you about 25 minutes to finish. Although it's short, you're not going to forget it any time soon!

Big Obsidian Flow Trail

This is another very unique volcanic trail. It's about 1/2 a mile long and gains almost no elevation. Along the way, you'll get to see the "Big Obsidian" lava flow.

Paulina Falls Trail

Also a popular option with visitors to Paulina Lake is the Falls trail. It is another easy hike that's not to be missed the area. It has a fantastic view of the falls from above and is only 1/2 a mile long.

Paulina Falls
Paulina Falls is accessible via a 0.5-mile hike.

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