PAULINA LAKE- Volcanic Hot Springs

In the Newberry National Volcanic Monument located in Central Oregon lies Paulina Lake. This crater lake and its surrounding area is the result of more than 500,000 years of volcanic activity. It is a four hour drive from Portland and an amazing weekend trip option. 
Josh and I have been dying to check these springs out ever since looking up pictures of them online. The pools are very easily accessible with two trail options. The first is a 7.5 mile loop around the lake and the second is a 1.2 mile stroll starting from Hot Spur Trail. Since we planned on backpacking and camping for the night we chose the shorter option, we wanted to find a spot and set up camp as soon as possible. We reached the trail head around 10am, loaded up our backs and began walking. The trail to the hot springs is absolutely gorgeous with snowy views of Paulina Peak and super close proximity to the water. We arrived at the springs which already had a few people soaking in them, we suppressed our urges to jump in and kept trekking along a little anxious to find our home base for the night. To our (great) disappointment we came across "No disperse camping allowed" signs at every potential site. We ended up doing the entire 7.5 mile loop with no luck and returned to the car exhausted a little frustrated that our plans hadn't worked out. We decided to book a room at a nearby hotel for the night, get up early the next day, and come back to soak with hopefully fewer crowds. It's funny how once I have backpacked a trail I appreciate hiking it again without weight on my back so much! It's such a glorious feeling when I think about how much more difficult the experience was with forty pounds on my back, I could seriously skip the entire way through. So, I was more than happy with our new plan. 
        The next morning I'm up at 4:30am (again, no alarm needed) I feel like a giddy toddler too excited for sleep. We reach the springs by 7am and are pleased to see only two other people soaking. Paulina Lake hot springs are the most picture perfect springs I have ever seen. They are right on the shore of the lake with each pool framed by big logs and a bed of comfy pebbles you can mold and sink your body into. The water was scorching hot so we opened up a log to let some lake water in until we reached perfect soaking temperature. The morning was crisp and the hot water felt amazing against our legs which were sore from the previous day, we even dunked our bodies in the lake a few times for a hot/cold water therapy session which helps so much with tight muscles and blood flow. We continued to soak for a couple of hours in complete awe of Paulina peak, watching as more and more fishermen showed up in their boats. It's always lovely to see that we're not the only crazies up before the sun on a Sunday morning. 
We can't recommend these hot springs enough, they are immaculate and a great option for those new to the outdoors lifestyle. The area that Paulina Lake is located in has lots to offer too, you could seriously spend a week there and have so much left to do still. We ended up visiting a couple of caves which are my favorite thing to explore ever! But please don't be like me and forget to check if your headlamp batteries are dead prior to going. We also walked through the Lava Cast Forest which contains 6,000 year old lava flow responsible for creating hollow lava molds of ancient rotted trees (amazing, amazing, amazing!). Just writing about this dynamic, perfect little corner of the world makes me so excited to go back and explore some more.