Lava Butte & Lands Visitor Center

Written by’s Local Expert


The Lava Lands Visitors Center is a small area to visit to learn more about the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. When you arrive here, you can learn more about the monument and the surrounding area. There are often rangers available that can provide information and directions to the monument, but there is also a 3D topographic map located in the visitors center that can provide directions for those who have a bit of experience navigating the area.

This exhibit area is quite interesting and offers a lot of great information. It provides information about the geologic and cultural history of the region, which is great for those who already love to explore the area and all it has to offer. Our family enjoys exploring the entire Sunriver area, and this is one stop on our way to doing that.

The Visitors Center also has a bookstore present if you want to pick up some maps or other items. Depending on when you visit, you can also watch a video about the region, and these are a great way to get a better feel for the region.

Lava Butte is a cinder cone that reaches 500 feet above the visitor's center. It is very tall, and there is a cinder covered trail that is around the rim of the cone. This is where you will find some of the best views in the area.

This entire experience is ideal for anyone that is interested in learning the history of the area but also wants to see some of the best views in the region. We highly recommend it.

Getting There

The Lava Butte and Lands Visitors Center is located in Bend, Oregon, just a few minutes from Sunriver. It is located just off Route 97 and near the Trail of the Molten Land, Phil Brogan Viewpoint, and just to the south of the High Desert Museum. If you are coming from Bend, you'll want to travel along Highway 97 south. It is about 8 miles to the south of Exit 143 Baker/ Knot Road. Once you get off there, you can turn right into the pocket lane once you see the signs indicating you are in the area.

Keep in mind that there are fees associated with this experience. Those fees help to cover the costs of maintenance and upkeep. When we went in 2022, the cost was $3 per person for the shuttle service to the top. Kids under the age of 2 are free. You can bring bikes, leashed dogs, as well as wheelchairs on the shuttle.

To access to Lava Butte Interpretive site, you have to pay a day use fee of $5 per vehicle per day or have a recreation pass. There are higher costs for commercial visits, such as tours that are done throughout the area. You can use your Northwest Forest Pass, which is good for Oregon and Washington, for access, as well as a Local Pass.


There are a lot of things to do in the region, but we like to spend at least a day exploring this area. One of the best experiences is the Trail of Molten Land and then the Trail of the Whispering Pines. These are fantastic trails and can provide you with lots of beautiful photos of birds and other wildlife you may find on the way.

During your visit, you can check out the Sun-Lava paved path. This is a 5.5 mile path that takes you through the forested area on a beautiful walk. It is definitely worth the exploration if you like to bike or hike.

Also, from the visitors center, you can travel to the top of Lava Butte. Now, this can be somewhat of a challenging climb, but if you take your time, most people will find it worth it. The good news is that the views of all of central Oregon are nothing short of amazing. Don't forget your camera. You can walk this trail (no mountain bikes allowed) any time from dawn until dusk when the area is open. Most of the time, the season runs from May through October.

If you want to reach the summit but are unable to do so by walking, there is a shuttle service that runs from the visitors center up to the summit. This is only available during the busy periods, which are from mid-June through Labor Day weekend. I believe there was a shuttle running several times an hour.

When you reach the top, you will have some outstanding views of the Cascade Range. It also provides some views, on a clear day, all the way out to Newberry. We love to take the walking climb to the summit and check out all of the animals and wildlife habitats along the way.


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