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Paulina Lake Loop Trail + Hot Springs

Paulina Lake Loop Trail + Hot Springs, OR

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Hot SpringsSwimming Holes + Cliff JumpingBig Vistas (Viewpoints)Hiking (moderate)
Region: 
Central Oregon
Total distance: 
7.80 miles
Trailhead elev.: 
6,350 ft.
Net elev. gain: 
20 ft.
Trail type: 
Loop
Congestion: 
Moderate
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Dogs allowed: 
Yes
Road condition: 
Paved
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
NW Forest Pass
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Tyson Gillard | 09.22.12
Paulina Lake Loop Trailhead at Little Crater Campground.

Trip Report

Pros: 
Swimming in opal waters. Hot springs. Nearby camping.
Cons: 
Only easily accessible in summer.

If you were just looking at the water in Paulina Lake, you might think you were somewhere closer to the equator.  The good news for hikers is that there is a 7.8-mile loop that will take you around the entire lake.  And tucked away just on the edge of a beach lined with grasses and reeds is one of the most tranquil and relaxing hot springs in the entire northwest.

Paulina Lake sits at an elevation of 6,340 feet on the western side of Newberry Volcano's 5-mile wide caldera.  Like Crater Lake, the volcano's core has collapsed, and at one time it was most-likely filled with one continuous body of water.  With subsequent eruptions, however, more recent lava flows have filled in the caldera, separating the single lake into what is now two bodies, Paulina Lake and East Lake.

Walking the trail in its entirety is certainly well worth it. If your time is limited, the most captivating section of the trail departs northward from Little Crater Campground.  By passing through the Inter Lake Obsidian Flow you can make it to the aforementioned idyllic beach hot springs in only 1.2 miles. Note that the springs may be more accurately described as 'warm,' as the water temperature surely remains somewhere south of 95 degrees.  The spring is only slightly built out with logs to support its perimeter, and unlike the springs along East Lake's southern shore, the smell of sulfur is virtually non-existent.  Continue an additional 0.4 miles and you'll reach the pebbly North Beach; if you have a shovel ready you can dig out and build your own custom hot spring right on the beach.

If you are looking to camp along the trail you will find some backcountry campsites at the North Cove Beach, roughly 1 mile west of North Beach.  The best views of the lake, Paulina Peak, Diamond Peak and Mount Thielsen are on the section of trail between the two beaches.

If you are camping at Little Crater Campground or the Newberry Group Camp, try to catch the sunset from the top of Little Crater, where you will also be able to glimpse Mount Bachelor and South Sister to the northwest.

Note: Overnight camping is not permitted at the log-supported warm springs or North Beach.

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