Lassen Volcanic National Park (NP #36), California

Editor’s Choice


 

I first visited Lassen Volcanic National Park (map / wiki) two years ago on a weeklong “pilot” road trip with my buddy Erik. He and I hiked half way up Lassen Peak, but because there was still a good amount of snow on the ground and we had to turn back. We drove south through the park, and the geology and ecology I saw from the road was enough to seriously pique my interest. When I revisited the park last week (9/10/15) I knew I had unfinished business.

The first thing on my list was to complete the hike up Lassen Peak (wiki).

 

There wasn’t any snow up there this time around, and it was a quick well beaten hiking path up to the top. The hike up wasn’t incredibly scenic. Not much is able to grow after about halfway up the trail, and my view of the surrounding area was obscured by lingering ash from nearby wildfires.

 

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Lassen Peak trail. The trailhead parking lot is visible in this picture. It’s at bottom center, between the lake and trail switchbacks.

 

The peak of Lassen Peak is easily the coolest part of the hike.

 

Lassen erupted in 1915 so it’s freshly charred. There are minor trails that criss-cross around its drab brick colored crater. I put on my Mars explorer persona and took careful note of the geology. Hopping from rock to rock, I photographed unique specimen and contemplated the mechanism of their formation.

 

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Lassen Peak crater. There was a pool at the center of the crater with a 50 foot patch of ice still melting into it.

 

From Lassen Peak I drove down to check out an area of intense geothermal activity known as Bumpass Hell.

 

The air is warm and moist, and the area reeks of primordial sulphur. It’s probably not everyone’s favorite place to hang out, but for me the hissing plumes of steam and belching mud pots make up for the smell.

 

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Bumpass Hell.

 

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Close up picture of one of the streams out of a hot spring in Bumpass Hell.

 

At this point in my US tour I consider myself something of a road connoisseur.

 

I evaluate and critique roads over a few categories: their smoothness, their flow from one turn to the next, their scenery, and overall presentation (signs, guardrails, paint, pull-offs, etc.). The drive south from Bumpass Hell is my favorite five mile stretch of asphalt in America. It’s a winding gradual downhill which ends by leading you directly through the steaming ravine of Sulphur Works. I’d like to shake hands with the civil engineer and contractor on that project.

 

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I pulled off at the bottom of the road and hiked into the foothills of Brokeoff Mountain to spend the night. The next morning I continued hiking the trail up to the summit.

 

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Morning hike up Brokeoff Mountain.

 

The view north from Brokeoff Mountain is awesome.

 

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That’s Lassen Peak in the center, and Bumpass Hell is the light brown area below and to the right of Lassen.

 

Lassen is a real sleeper park in my opinion.

 

Having endured an eruption so recently, it maintains an interesting and relevant place in American geologic history. Speaking from the two times I’ve been, the park is surprisingly uncrowded for how interesting and attractive its landscape is. Odds are you hadn’t heard about it before this post.

 

When you find some time, go have a look.

 

2 Comments on “Lassen Volcanic National Park (NP #36), California

  1. When I was in 6th grade, Summit Elementary in Beaumont, CA had a wonderful program called Super Summer Travelers (SST). For two weeks, about 60 students traveled around California and visited various parks and attractions like Hearst Castle, Santa Barbara Mission, Yosemite and Lassen and several more. I was very lucky to be one of those students! At one point we visited a hot springs area but I could never remember where it was! Well now I have my answer!! We went to Bumpass Hell!! And it was wonderful!! I wish I could do the trip all over again because the 50 year old me would appreciate the experience much more than my 12 year old self did at the time! What a wonderful adventurous thing you have done! Thank you for the blog!

    1. Wow, I wish I could have done something like that back in 6th grade! I went on a school trip Washington DC in 5th grade. It was a great experience, but I was happy to be able to go back now that it means more to me. Happy travels!

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