Lava Cast Forest in Central Oregon

Updated on February 12, 2018
stephhicks68 profile image

Stephanie has lived in Central Oregon since 2006. She has been raising four kids and enjoying the many recreational amenities here

If you come to visit the Central Oregon area during spring, summer, or fall, you must take the time to visit the Lava Cast Forest, just east of Sunriver. Take the exit off Highway 97, as if you are going to Sunriver, but head east instead. You'll follow an unpaved road for 9 miles until the final destination. It is totally worth the drive!

Step back into history and witness the remnants of an explosive volcanic eruption more than 6,000 years ago. The Newberry Volcano to the south spewed hot lava through standing forests thousands of years before anyone inhabited this area. The trees that existed at the time became encased in stone when the lava cooled. What remained were "casts" of the trees, many of which go down several feet below surface level. Lava fields still remain over much of the area. But, wondrously, new life erupts from the stone ground.

Only 15 miles south of Bend, the Lava Cast Forest should definitely be on your list of places to visit when you come to Central Oregon! The elevation is a little over 5,700 feet, so you may want to bring a sweatshirt, just in case. Not surprisingly, the area is not open during the winter months when the ground is covered in deep snow.

Two of my boys at the entrance to the Lava Cast Forest park in Central Oregon
Two of my boys at the entrance to the Lava Cast Forest park in Central Oregon | Source
Mt. Bachelor in the west over the lava flow in Central Oregon
Mt. Bachelor in the west over the lava flow in Central Oregon | Source
On the Lava Cast Forest loop trail - a little over one mile
On the Lava Cast Forest loop trail - a little over one mile | Source

What to Expect at the Lava Cast Forest

This site is maintained by the United States Forest Service. You will need to have either a recreation pass ($30 a year), or $5 to park in the lot (bring exact change). Restrooms are available right at the trailhead. There is a paved trail on which you can wander through the area, which is only about 1 mile and relatively flat. Twelve marked areas are along the trail for viewing, but there is much more natural wonder. On the last 1/4 mile of the loop, you can see Mount Bachelor and the Sisters over the lava fields. Beautiful wild flowers, juniper and Ponderosa pines amazingly grow out of the stone ground.

Our family has also visited the Newberry Caldera National Monument further to the south (about 8 miles south, then 8 miles east). This is another must-see area for visitors to Central Oregon. It is worth a separate Hub. The area is 17 square miles and is at the base of a 500 square mile volcano, which is still currently active. As stated on the official website: "Geologists believe the caldera sits over a shallow magma body only 2 to 5 kilometers deep. Visitors see numerous cinder cones (over 400 throughout the area), miles of basalt flows, as well as rhyolite flows of obsidian."

There are a number of lava fields throughout the area just south of Bend. Fortunately, the Forest Service has opened many of these up to the public for a small fee, and you can explore the areas, take photographs, and learn about the geologic history of the region. Many active volcanoes remain and one can imagine what it must have been like to see the hot lava flow through the area!

Perhaps most amazingly, the lava rocks are very light. When you pick one up, you would not imagine that it would be so weightless. As with any natural area, however, be sure to leave everything as you find it. Lava rocks should be replaced, and all trees and vegetation should remain as is. Take nothing but photographs. As the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts recognize, we should all Leave No Trace.

In a Lava Cast - Can He Get Out?

Standing inside one of the lava casts where a huge tree once stood
Standing inside one of the lava casts where a huge tree once stood | Source

Sunriver, Oregon

After your time at the Forest, drive back down the 9-mile cinder/gravel road and then cross Highway 97 directly towards Sunriver. The community is only 3 miles from the highway. The village at Sunriver boasts numerous restaurants, coffee cafes, and speciality stores. There is even a grocery store. Ample parking is available, so you won't have to walk too far.

The wooded resort is open to the public for shopping and recreation year-round. Many people rent or own accommodations at Sunriver from which they can head out to enjoy the great outdoors of the Central Oregon region. From skiing and snowboarding in the winter, to fly-fishing, hiking and biking in the summer, there is so much to do! Sunriver also has horse stables. You can go on guided rides (ages 7 and up), and ponies are available for the younger set. Paved trails wind throughout the resort on which people can bike or run.

We enjoyed lunch at the Aloha BBQ after our walk through the Forest. The aroma alone of the variety of barbecued meats, served up with rice, potato salad, noodles or pineapple coleslaw, is bound to make your mouth water! It is located right in the middle of the Sunriver square. I highly recommend it.

One of the casts made when the lava flow came through around the Central Oregon forest
One of the casts made when the lava flow came through around the Central Oregon forest | Source
A snapshot of the Central Oregon lava flows (it hardly shows the magnitude of the flow)
A snapshot of the Central Oregon lava flows (it hardly shows the magnitude of the flow) | Source

Visit Central Oregon

This area south of Bend is filled with wondrous locations to explore. From the Lava Cast Forest to the Lava River Cave, including Lava Butte, the explosive history of the region is clearly evident. Just a little longer drive will take you to Fort Rock.

This geologic formation, known as a "tuff ring" was formed 50,000 to 100,000 years ago when molten lava exploded from vents in the bottom of a lake and then cooled in the waters in a circular shape. The lake is long gone, but the amazing rocks stand testament to the earth's formative years. Unlike the parking at Lava Cast Forest, you can park for free at Fort Rock. Hike around the crater and marvel at the earth's creation.

Of the many things to do in Central Oregon, most definitely get out and enjoy the scenery!

Beauty along the Lava Cast Forest trail
Beauty along the Lava Cast Forest trail | Source

Footage of the Amazing Lava Fields at the Lava Cast Forest

Another gorgeous lava cast
Another gorgeous lava cast | Source
Many of the lava tubes are so big you can practically climb inside
Many of the lava tubes are so big you can practically climb inside | Source

Where is Sunriver Oregon and the Lava Cast Forest?

The explanatory sign at the entrance to the Lava Cast Forest park
The explanatory sign at the entrance to the Lava Cast Forest park | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2008 Stephanie Hicks

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      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Its a really cool site to visit! Not open yet for the year (as of March), but you should be able to see the Lava Cast Forest from June through September. Enjoy!

      • mljdgulley354 profile image

        mljdgulley354 

        6 years ago

        I am glad I ran across this article. My husband has been wanting to see the lava forests ever since we moved out here. Now I know where to go.

      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Hi Hugh, the Lava Cast Forest in Oregon is truly a sight to see, but I should note that the best viewing times are from May through September each year.

        With lots of snow and unpredictable seasons, it is tough to predict when you'll be able to see these sights that are located over 4000 feet above sea level. :)

      • profile image

        Hugh Warfle 

        6 years ago

        My daughter just moved to Bend Oregon from Western NY State, and when I visit her after te first of the year, this will definitely be on my list of things to see

      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Thank you Peggy!

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        8 years ago from Houston, Texas

        I absolutely love how you are showcasing things in your area. Had not heard about these lava cast trees and enjoyed learning about them from you. Thanks for the pictures, videos and information.

      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Hi Kevin, there is so much natural beauty here in Oregon! Do stop by to see the Lava Cast forest. I'll be writing another hub on more Central Oregon beauty in the next few days too. Best, Stephani

      • profile image

        Kevin 

        9 years ago

        Hi, I am heading to Oregon from Ireland for the first time during the summer. I am going for the trees, but I think this will make a really cool thing for my to do list, thanks

      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Hi Marisue, the lava fields are amazng, aren't they? I would love to see more in other parts of the country. Glad to give you a chance to walk down memory lane!

        Hi Constant Walker - you should come over the mountains to visit. I was hoping that there would be standing stone cast trees, but all that was left were the casts in which they were standing when the lava came through.

      • Constant Walker profile image

        Constant Walker 

        10 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

        Loved it, and never been there... yet. Especially liked the photos and video. Were the any standing stone-cast trees?

      • marisuewrites profile image

        marisuewrites 

        10 years ago from USA

        Hi steph, loved this info...I grew up in the Rocky Mountains up near Cloudcroft New Mexico and we would often discover lava on our nature hikes. This hub brought many great memories of those trees and mountains where lava was scattered. nature is a wonder...and thank you for reminding us of great ways to enjoy our world.

      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        2patricias - please write some hubs about the things to see in your location. I really enjoy writing articles about Central Oregon. Let me know if you're ever in my neck of the woods.

      • 2patricias profile image

        2patricias 

        10 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

        This looks amazing. I want to go to Central Oregon. Tricia & I will have to do some Hubs about our local attractions . Thanks for the idea.

      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Thank you Patty! We have lived here for 2 years now and are continuing to discover wonderful treasures on a regular basis.

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish MS 

        10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        Lovely pictures of a most interesting place. I knew nothing about any of this. I have been near Orgen, but never in the state. I have missed much that is beautiful there and need to see it.

      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Hi Amy - the Lava Caves are 1-2 exits north of the Lava Cast Forest. My husband took my older 2 boys there last year because he knew I would hate it. I am very curious, but my phobias would get the best of me (plus there are bats in there!!)

        Mr. M - yes, please! You should arrange your trip so you have time for Oregon. I would love to see you - Amy Jane too!

      • MrMarmalade profile image

        MrMarmalade 

        10 years ago from Sydney

        You have created the desire, Now I must find the will.

        May be when we go to Alaska, we should rearange a couple things

        Great hub

        Thank you

      • amy jane profile image

        amy jane 

        10 years ago from Connecticut

        I have to agree with Just Rodney - I wouldn't go into those caves either! I am sure my kids woud love it though. :) I really do need to visit Oregon, huh?

      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Hi Rodwambold - yes, you can definitely get to the Central Oregon area in 1/2 day drive from Vancouver, Washington. I hope you come and visit.

        Hi Robie - there are many more lava fields here in my neck of the woods. We tried to go see another site today (along the Mackenzie Pass Highway), but the road was still closed after our severe winter.

      • robie2 profile image

        Roberta Kyle 

        10 years ago from Central New Jersey

        I had no idea that there were such extensive and beautiful lava fields anywhere here in the United States. Reminds me of Iceland LOL--Thanks so much for taking all us hubbers with you on this great family outing.

      • rodwambold profile image

        rodwambold 

        10 years ago from Vancouver, WA

        Looks like some great family fun and not far from me. There are plenty of adventurous fun spot for the family and this is one of them!Nice hub page... Thanks!

      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Hot Dorkage, you are right! All of the information I've read about the caves say to definitely bring a sweatshirt.

        Tom Meyers - I hope you and your family have a great time at the Lava Cast Forest. Enjoy!

        Hi John - it is so wonderful to explore new areas - even those in our own backyards. I'll bet you could share some interesting tidbits from your area of the world. :-) Steph

      • John Chancellor profile image

        John Chancellor 

        10 years ago from Tennessee

        I had no idea about the cast forrest and the lava caves. Very interesting. I guess we get too caught up in our one little section of the world and fail to realize, explore and learn about the wonders that exist elsewhere.

        Thanks for sharing our knowledge in a very informative way.

      • Tom Meyers profile image

        Tom Meyers 

        10 years ago from Brookhaven, Georgia

        Very cool hub, I will bring the wife and kids and check it out for certain.

      • hot dorkage profile image

        hot dorkage 

        10 years ago from Oregon, USA

        The caves are cool and I mean that literally, 55F is the temperature for Oregon latitude. The tube especially. It is not like a normal cave, it is just a tube that gets narrower and narrower. Nice coverage Steph.

      • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

        Stephanie Hicks 

        10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Just Rodney, I have not done the lava caves either. I am afraid of small, dark places. LOL. But the lava fields and casts are really cool.

      • Just_Rodney profile image

        Rodney Fagan 

        10 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

        Great HUb there, but no way am I going into them thar caves. After two lower bach and a neck fusion I do not do caves. LOL ;-]

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