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On Wednesday Jason and I planned another longer hike from our base camp at LaPine State Park, this time to Paulina Lake via the Peter Skene Ogden Tail #3956 in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The trail starts at Ogden Group Camp off Paulina Lake Road/Road 21, just North of the city of LaPine, Oregon. Having hiked this trail from Ogden Group Camp to McKay Crossing campground many times, we decided to start Wednesday’s journey at our usual end point. This cuts off the first 2.75 miles of the hike, but makes for a 5.6 mile (one way) hike which gains just over 1500’ elevation from McKay Crossing to Paulina Lake. Lots of people mountain bike or horseback ride this trail in its entirety, as it is a shared-use trail (though mountain bikers are only allowed uphill on the trail and must return from Paulina Lake via Forest Service roads).
McKay Crossing campground is a primitive campground located along Paulina Creek. To reach it, travel along Hwy 97 to Paulina Creek Rd/Road 21 and then turn East onto FS Rd 2120 for 2.7 miles. McKay Crossing has sixteen camp sites, no running water, and a vault toilet. There is a newer bridge across Paulina Creek that allows access to day use parking for the upper portion of the PS Ogden Trail #3956. A day use fee of $5 or a Northwest Forest Service Pass is required.
When we arrived at McKay Crossing, we observed a few people camped in the campground but the day use area was deserted. The weather was partly cloudy and the temperature was in the mid-50’s. The first half of the hike follows Paulina Creek closely before turning away from the creek on the way to the lake. We were treated to some shade for the first 1-2 miles before entering a previously burned area.
The trail is easy to follow but quite dusty during the summer. As we gained some elevation, we came into a previously burned area and began to see the surrounding hills. We could see many fresh deer prints along the trail. Not long after, a doe crossed the creek ahead of us and hurried up the opposing hillside. Apparently she didn’t like sharing the trail with us.
Approximately half way into the hike, the forest became dense again and we turned away from the creek. It was in the shade of the forest canopy that we began to see wildflowers. While stopping to take a few photos, I noticed a flash of color back down the trail. We were soon greeted by a mountain biker on his way up the trail. We also ran into a pair of horseback riders farther up the trail.
Near the trail junction for FS Road 500 and the 10 Mile trailhead, there was a small spur that lead to a primitive camp site. The creekside site was secluded and offered a nice view of a small cascading waterfall.
We continued our hike in solitude, enjoying the views. We soon arrived at the short spur to Paulina Creek Falls, a double 80’ waterfall on Paulina Creek. The viewpoint on the PS Ogden trail is on the opposite side of the falls from the day use viewpoint along Paulina Lake Road.
After snapping a few photos, we hiked the last ½ mile of the trail and arrived at Paulina Lake. We enjoyed lunch on the lake shore and watched a few boats on the water. The lake lies inside Newberry Crater and is thought to have been formed from ancient volcanic activity within the caldera of Mt Newberry. Paulina Lake Resort seemed bustling with activity and the lunchtime rush. The resort offers a restaurant and bar, general store, 14 rental cabins, and boat rental and moorage.
After refilling our water pouches, we headed back toward McKay Crossing. Jason brought his fly rod, so we enjoyed a few stops along the trail while he fished. Along the way, he caught both rainbow and brook trout. Most fish were small, measuring approximately 6-10”. While fishing a deep pocket, Jason hooked a 12-13” rainbow that unfortunately got away in the rapids below the pocket.
Continuing our return hike, we enjoyed the numerous waterfalls and found many butterflies sunning themselves on the rocks and flowers along the creek. The hike through the burned area was hot midday and we were glad to reach the forested area again. We met one other horseback rider and a pair of mountain bikers on our return trip, but saw no one else hiking the entire day.
When we returned to the car, we dusted ourselves off and headed back to camp for a leisurely evening.