PAULINA PEAK — Crater Lake is the Cinderella of Oregon Lakes, but her step-sisters aren't exactly ugly. In fact, Newberry Crater's Paulina and East lakes might be more appealing to active outdoor recreationists than their more glamorous younger sibling.

Located about 25 miles southeast of Bend, Oregon's other crater of lakes, Newberry Crater, is the centerpiece of a volcanic playground that offers camping, hiking, mountain biking, fishing and boating, as well as up-close looks at geologic and cultural history.

The family resemblances with the “Eighth Wonder of the Natural World,” Crater Lake, are unmistakable.

Newberry Crater and Crater Lake are both calderas of collapsed volcanoes in which melting snow formed lakes. The summit of Newberry Volcano fell during a series of eruptions 200,000 to 500,000 years ago. By contrast, the top of Mount Mazama (Crater Lake) disappeared in one big blast 7,700 years ago.

Both have interesting features created by subsequent volcanic activity — Wizard Island in the middle of Crater Lake, and obsidian flows and cinder cones in Newberry Crater.

Both have deep blue eyes — although at a maximum depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is much deeper than Paulina Lake's 250 feet.

On the other hand, Newberry Crater's main rim viewpoint is quite a bit taller. The overlook at Paulina Peak is at 7,984 feet elevation, and the Crater Lake rim is at about 7,100 feet.

Crater Lake is a National Park (admission $10 per vehicle). East and Paulina lakes are part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument (day-use fee: $5). The Lava Cast Forest, Lava River Cave and the Lava Lands Visitor Center at Lava Butte are also included in the monument, and provide diversion for visitors who run out of things to do in Newberry Crater.

But doing that is difficult to imagine because Newberry Crater's attractions are much more accessible than the national park's.

After all, only a small percentage of Crater Lake's visitors make the 2.2-mile hike down the steep Cleetwood Trail to stick a toe in the water or take the boat ride to Wizard Island.

At Newberry Crater, on the other hand, families line the shores and a variety of watercraft dot the surfaces of both East and Paulina lakes.
Here are just some of the things to do at Newberry Crater:

* Take in the sweeping volcanic vista from Paulina Peak. Drive the 3.5-mile gravel service road (one lane with turnouts; no RVs or trailers allowed) or hike the Paulina Peak Trail.

Among the highest points one can drive to in Oregon, the 7,984-foot overlook provides a 360-degree view which, on a clear day, includes Cascade Range mountains in California and Washington.

One also gets a good overview of the obsidian flows and cinder cones that help shape the interior of the 17-square-mile caldera, a moonscape that Apollo astronauts used while training for walks on the lunar surface.

* Hike or bike the 21-mile Crater Rim Trail (#3957), popular with weekend-warrior mountain bikers. Sections are also heavily used by horseback riders. Other hike/bike opportunities include a seven-mile loop trail around Paulina Lake, the four-mile Lost Lake trail and the 1.5-mile Little Crater Trail.

* Camp at one of the eight campgrounds in the caldera (including campgrounds designated for horses and groups). Details: www.hoodoo.com.

* Catch a brown trout or kokanee at Paulina Lake, which produced the state-record 28-pound, 5-ounce brown. Paulina Lake is also the state's “kokanee cradle;” eggs and sperm taken from fish that move into Paulina Creek to spawn supply the state's hatchery needs.

* Visit Paulina Falls, a lacy waterfall on the small creek that cuts through a small gorge in the western wall of the caldera. Paulina Creek is the only outlet for water in the caldera.

The Peter Skene Ogden National Scenic Trail follows the creek from just east of Highway 97 to the falls. (Bikes allowed in the uphill direction only.)

* Check out the “glass menagerie,” otherwise known as the Big Obsidian Flow. A 0.8-mile interpretive trail takes visitors through a portion of a volcanic feature in which lava cooled in just the right conditions to form black glass. (It's illegal to remove any).

The obsidian flow — at 1,300 years the youngest lava flow in Oregon — was a big drawing card for native Americans. They chipped the glass into sharp tools, and obsidian from Newberry was traded throughout the Pacific Northwest.

* Learn more about Newberry's geology and archeology at the visitor center. (UO archeologists found remnants of a 10,000-year-old residence on the south shore of Paulina Lake, preserved by the thick layer of pumice and ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama.)

* Boat one of the lakes. There's a 10 mph speed limit on motorboats. East Lake is popular with paddlers and windsurfers. Boats may be rented from the resorts at each lake.

* Watch wildlife. The caldera is a designated wildlife refuge. Resident mammals include deer, elk, badger, pine marten and black bear. The lakes are home to osprey, ducks, geese and tundra swans and bald eagles.

On the Web: www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/newberrynvm/index.shtml.