Lava Lands Visitor Center is located about eight miles south of Bend, Oregon on Hwy. 97. There is a very small interpretive center, bookstore, trails, restrooms and picnic tables. The site is set up for visitors to Central Oregon to learn all about the volcanic history of the area known as the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
Lava Butte is the focal point of this spot. The lava flow from this butte spreads out over nine miles in this area. There are “islands” of trees in the flow. “Islands” is the term the locals use. When we first arrived there was a fire from lightening and the news kept reporting that the fire was in an island in the lava flow. We wondered what that meant and finally found out when we visited the site.
To see this spectacular scene you can either walk one of the trails up to the top of Lava Butte or drive up in a car. There are only 10 parking spots, so when you enter the lower facility you are given a time slot and told where to park and wait. Then when it’s your turn you can start driving up to the butte (there is no cost for this part). It’s actually quite close and doesn’t seem very tall, at only 500 feet. The drive up is unique as it follows a beautiful red lava rock road that first weaves through a lava bed, then spirals up the hill.
Once parked in the parking lot, you can take a short, but rather steep walk up to the working Forest Service lookout. Inside the bottom floor of the lookout are displays on the walls above each window explaining each geologic feature you are seeing out that particular window. That’s when I realized there are a heck of a lot of buttes and mountains around there!
The views up here there are amazing! For such a short butte, you can see very far.
There are two trails – The Trail of Molten Land and the Trail of the Whispering Pines – where you can take a leisurely stroll through the area, enjoying more views and looking for critters. What great names for trails!
After checking out the butte and the trails, you really need to stop in the visitor center and see the educational and interesting displays. There are four different short movies shown during the day that explain the different volcanic processes so they are worth seeing in order to learn more.
Lava Lands Visitor Center is a quick stop to visit while in the Central Oregon area, but an important stop that will help you understand the geology you are seeing. When you learn the story of how the landscape was created through such violent earth processes, you can’t help but view it in a different light and appreciation.
Lava Lands Visitor Center is a Forest Service Fee site so it costs $5 for the day or the $30 annual pass is valid there.
Lava Lands Visitor Center
58201 South Hwy. 97
Bend, OR 97707