Lassen Volcanic National Park
Located: California - Established: August 9, 1916
The Park: Two years after Novarupta erupted in what is now Katmai National Park, Lassen Peak began three years of volcanic outbursts. The largest eruption took place on May 22, 1915 and launched a mushroom-shaped cloud of ash 30,000 feet into the atmosphere.
Lassen Peak has remained “quiet” since 1921; however, it is still considered an active volcano. Located at the southern end of the Cascade Mountain Range, Lassen is one of many other famous volcanic peaks along the Volcanic Chain of Fire, which includes Mt. Rainier, Mt. St Helens, Mt. Shasta and Mt. Hood.
Lassen features many impressive hydrologic characteristics including steaming furmaroles (vents from which volcanic gas escapes), bubbling pools and gurgling mudpots. The largest hydrothermal area in the park is known as Bumpass Hell– a 16- acre area of “hellish” terrain.
The area got its name when in the 1860’s, K.V. Bumpass, a local guide, stepped through the thin crust of a steaming hot mudpot, thus badly burning his leg. After the incident, Bumpass wisecracked about his “decent into hell!”
Getting there: Lassen is located in Northeastern California approximately 50 miles east of Redding, CA. The park has 5 entry points and one Main Park Road that runs north-south through the park. The two main points of entry are in the Manzanita Lake Area in the northwestern section of the park and the Kohm-Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center entry point in the southwestern quadrant of the park.
When to go: Although the park is open all year, winter weather frequently shuts down many of the roads inside the park for extended periods of time. The year we visited, the Main Park Road at the summit by Lassen Peak had just opened up on July 8th!
What to do: The 30-mile Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway provides visitors an excellent introduction to the key features of the park. This auto-tour will expose you to Sulphur Works, Bumpass Hell Overlook, Lassen Peak Viewpoint and much more.
Hiking: Lassen features over 150 miles of hiking trails for trekkers of all abilities. One of the most popular hikes is trekking to the top of the world’s largest plug dome volcano via the 2.5-mile Lassen Peak Trail. The Reach the Peak Project was a multi-year effort to restore and rehabilitate the Lassen Peak Trail. The restoration Project was completed in October 2014.
For another worthwhile and less strenuous hike, take in the awesome reflective view of the Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags while trekking about the 1.8-mile Manzanita Lake Loop Trail. The best time to trek about this flat trail is in the morning.
Where to stay: Drakesbed Guest Ranch in Warner Valley is the only lodging within the park. Availability is limited and reservations are recommended long in advance of arrival. Most visitors choose to camp in one of Lassen’s 8 campgrounds, which range from the primitive to fully developed with over 400 available campsites. Due to heavy seasonal snow, these campgrounds are typically closed during the winter months.
The two largest campgrounds, Manzanita Lake and Butte Lake recommend reservations be made to secure a space. New to the park, the Manzanita Lake Campground now offers 20 rustic Camper Cabins.
Memorable moment: Hiking to the top of Lassen Peak.
Trivia: The Main Park Road was built just 10 years after Lassen Peak erupted. At its summit (8512’), Main Park Road is the highest road in the Cascsade Mountains and has been known to accumulate up to 40 feet of snow near Lake Helen.
Banner: Lake Helen in July of 2012.
Experience these Check List:
- Stop by the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center
- Take a hike down to Bumpass Hell
- Visit the Sulpher Works
- Trek to the top of Lassen Peak
- Hike around Manzanita Lake
- Drive the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway