Vistas and Volcanoes in the Cascades and High Desert of Central Oregon

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14239A, Lodge


  • Experience the snow-capped Cascade Mountains
  • Hike through Central Oregon’s varied volcanic landscape and along portions of the Pacific Crest Trail
  • Learn about conservation management in one of the West’s premier National Forests


  • Guided visits to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and the High Desert Museum
  • All meals and food preparation equipment; fees and permits
  • Group cabins with nearby flush toilets and hot showers


DatesJul 20–26, 2014
StaffRon Franklin

Trip Overview

The Trip

The Cascades are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the ring of volcanoes and associated mountains around the Pacific Ocean. The Cascades were formed about 1.6 million years ago, with volcanic activity continuing as recently as 1600 years ago. The resulting landscape of Central Oregon is a high, dry, forested volcanic wonderland dominated by the unique, closely grouped Three Sisters and Broken Top volcanoes, and by the equally unique caldera and cinder cones of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. All these wonders are within the Deschutes National Forest, which is drained by the beautiful Deschutes River. We’ll stay in a clean, quiet campground next to a twisting, cold river brimming with trout (and a nearby legendary fly fishing spot). During our week together, we'll be immersed in a subalpine forest where the air has a high-Cascades tang and surrounded by miles of waiting-to-be-explored wilderness. On any given day, we might find ourselves watching eagles or red-tailed hawks grabbing breakfast right in front of us, or just sitting in a campsite pondering our adventures of the next day.


Our week-long Central Oregon Volcanoes experience will be based in comfortable cabins in LaPine State Park and will feature day-long field experiences and cultural diversions. The park is also home to Oregon's largest ponderosa pine -- "Big Red," 162-feet tall, 29-feet around and may be in excess of 500 years old. LaPine State Park is located about 15 miles south of Bend, Oregon, on the Deschutes River and about four miles east of U.S. Highway 97. 

Note: The leaders will make every reasonable effort to meet the itinerary outlined in the brochure. Please keep in mind that weather or other conditions beyond their control may cause them to modify the itinerary in order to ensure the safety and enjoyment of the group.

Day 1: Plan to arrive before 4 p.m. at LaPine State Park and meet your leaders, who will help you move into the comfortable park cabins. Our trip officially starts with dinner at 5:30 p.m., followed by an orientation to the week’s activities and an opportunity to get acquainted.

Day 2: After eating breakfast in camp and packing our trail lunches, we'll drive to the Lava Lands Visitor Center for an orientation to the volcanoes. Then we'll hike the Trail of the Molten Lands (about a mile round trip) and head up Lava Butte (about three miles round trip) for an orientation to Central Oregon's volcanic landscape. After eating lunch on the Deschutes River at Benham Falls, we'll explore the famous lava tube at Lava River Cave and the Lava Cast Forest, then return to camp for dinner.  

Day 3: Today we'll drive to Newberry National Volcanic Monument Caldera, where we'll hike to 7,900-foot Paulina Peak (about four miles round trip; 1,400 feet elevation gain) to view the caldera’s twin lakes and other volcanic features from the summit. After lunch, we'll go on a short hike at the Big Obsidian Flow, then continue on the Paulina Lake Trail and visit the historic Paulina Lake Guard Station. We'll return to camp for dinner.

Day 4: In the morning, we'll visit the High Desert Museum and High Desert Ranger Station. The afternoon is free for individual activities, whether that's biking, fishing canoeing/paddling the Deschutes River, or shopping/sightseeing in Bend. In the evening, we'll meet for dinner at one of Bend’s famous brew pubs.  

Day 5: After breakfast, we'll drive to 5,300-foot McKenzie Pass on the Cascade Crest. From Dee Wright Observatory, we'll view view the Cascade Range then hike a lava flow trail. Later, we'll hike the Pacific Crest Trail southward into Three Sisters Wilderness to view 10,085-foot North Sister and the Collier Glacier. Dinner is back in camp.

Day 6: Our ambitious goal today is to hike the slopes of the 10,358-foot South Sister, or we may choose the more leisurely trip to Moraine Lake at the base of South Sister. Afterward, we'll visit Historic Elk Lake Guard Station. We'll return to camp for our final dinner together.

Day 7: After a leisurely morning of breakfast in camp and packing up, we'll depart for home.



Getting There

Central Oregon’s commercial airport is located in Redmond, about 15 miles north of Bend and about 35 miles via U.S. Highway 97 north of LaPine State Park. You may fly direct to Redmond from Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Rental cars are available there. Participants’ cars will be used to reach each day’s destinations. Riders should plan to ride-share and reimburse drivers for mileage.

Specific directions to LaPine State Park and the cabin site will be sent to participants at a later time. The first meal of the trip is dinner at 5:30 p.m. on day one. The leaders will be at the cabin site by 3:00 p.m.

Be sure to bring your current National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (e.g., annual pass, senior pass, access pass, or volunteer pass).

Accommodations and Food

We will stay in comfortable rustic cabins, with nearby hot showers and flush toilets.

All meals are provided for this trip, starting with dinner the first night and ending with breakfast the last day. Meals will include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Some meals may be vegetarian, and vegetarians can be accommodated. A tasty selection of snacks is included. Please discuss food restrictions, allergies, or dislikes with the trip leader before signing up for this trip. Everyone will help with cooking and cleaning up in Sierra Club tradition.

Trip Difficulty

We will walk at a moderate pace with time for taking pictures and interpretation of natural and cultural history and natural resource management. Most walks are short, ranging from two to six miles, with moderate elevation changes. On some occasions we’ll offer longer, more challenging hikes. Trails are well maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, but rocky in places; the South Sister Trail is very rocky and best walked in boots that provide ankle protection.

This trip will be most enjoyed if you have at least a moderate level of physical fitness. Training before the event should include day hikes of up to 10 miles on hilly terrain while wearing the hiking boots you plan to use on the trip.

Equipment and Clothing

Each participant will need his or her own sleeping bag and pad for use on cabin bunks. Temperatures at this time of year are usually hot during the day (upper 80s) and cool to cold at night (upper 40s), so you will want to pack options for warm and cold. Clothing for hiking should include well broken-in hiking boots or shoes, clothing to layer, and rain gear. Casual clothing for the evenings should include a warm jacket, hat, gloves, and comfortable camp shoes. A complete packing list will be sent upon registration for the trip. All group cooking gear, including stoves, pots, and pans, will be provided.



  • Deschutes National Forest Recreation Map, U.S. Forest Service
  • Three Sisters Wilderness Map, Geo-Graphics, Portland, Oregon


  • Joslin, Les. The Wilderness Concept and the Three Sisters Wilderness.
  • Sullivan, William L. 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades.
  • Sullivan, William L. Hiking Oregon’s History.


The 1.6 million-acre Deschutes National Forest is one of the most visited national forests in the Pacific Northwest Region and the nation. The Forest includes the 60 thousand-acre Newberry National Volcanic Monument (one of six national monuments administered by the U.S. Forest Service instead of the National Park Service), the eastern third of the 285 thousand-acre Three Sisters Wilderness (the most-visited and second-largest National Wilderness Preservation System unit in Oregon), and the popular Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. We will discuss management of its diverse amenity and commodity resources to meet the wants and needs of its diverse citizen-owners in a sustainable manner.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from the Deschutes National Forest.



A Sierra Club member since 1991, Ron Franklin lives, hikes, and mountain bikes in Tucson, AZ. Previously, he's lived in Mountain Green, UT; Monterey, CA, and Washington, DC, for 2 years each; preceded by 16 years in Hawaii. His principal enjoyments are hiking, backpacking, kayaking, and ‘peak bagging’ – most notably the two volcano mountains on the Big Island, Mt. Rainier in Washington state and Mt. Whitney in CA -- both above 14,400'; even more challenging were summitting Africa's 19,340' Mt Kilimanjaro in 2007 and the Thorong La Pass (almost 18,000’) in the Annapurna Mountains of Nepal in 2013. His current adventure is to paddle (and portage) the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, some 740 miles over four summers in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine; he completed the second leg this past summer.


Jennifer Taddei began leading Sierra Club trips in the Northwest in 1990. When she's not hiking and camping, Jennifer also enjoys soccer, swimming, and traveling with her family.

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