Lassen Volcanic National Park, located in northern California, was established
in 1916 to protect active volcanism including hot springs, steaming fumaroles,
mud pots, and sulfurous vents, and all four types of volcanoes (shield,
composite, cinder cone, and plug dome) can be found here. The dominant
feature of the park is Lassen Peak which burst into eruption and began a 7-year
cycle of sporadic volcanic outbursts in 1914. The peak is the largest plug
dome volcano in the world and the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range,
which extends from northern California into Canada.
Getting there ...
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been sheltered at home since mid-March and
have not had any travel in 7 months (our last trip to
Japan in Feb). I was quite
excited but also cautious when I planned the trip during the pandemic:
Lassen is one of the least visited national parks in California (0.5 million
visitors vs. 4.4 million to Yosemite in 2019); it is within reasonable driving
distance (~4.5 hours for 300 miles) so no need to take an airplane;
mid-September has much less travelers and tourists as all schools have started;
the cabin at
Highlands Ranch Resort just
outside Lassen National Park is a perfect lodging option (comfortable and
isolated); and the last time we visited
Lassen was already 19 years ago.
We started our drive at ~ 8AM.
With a quick stop at Red Bluff for gas and food (although McDonalds' only opened
for drive through, its restrooms were also open for customers to use!), we got
to Lassen National Park before 1PM and it's time to stretch our legs...
- Bumpass Hell
The hottest and most vigorous hydrothermal features in
Lassen Volcanic National Park are at Bumpass Hell. A three-mile round-trip
trail―one of the most popular in the park―provides access to the Bumpass
Hell basin. Within the basin, a boardwalk traverses a portion of the
hydrothermal area and additional trails offer access to the southern portion
of the basin and connect to additional area trails.
- Lassen Peak and Lake Helen
Lassen Peak reaches an elevation of 10,457
feet (3,187 m). With a volume of 0.6 cubic miles (2.5 km3), it is the
largest lava dome on Earth. On May 30, 1914, Lassen became
volcanically active again after 27,000 years of dormancy. On May
22, 1915, at about 4:00 p.m., Lassen Peak produced a violent explosive
eruption that ejected rock and pumice. Volcanic ash and gas formed a
column that reached altitudes of more than 30,000 feet, and was detected up
to 280 miles (450 km) east in Nevada. In total, about 400
eruptions were observed between 1914 and 1921, which were the last eruptions
in the Cascades before the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.
- Childs Meadow and Highland Resort
We booked a cabin (Meadow's Edge)
at Highlands Ranch Resort on
Childs Meadow just 10 minutes outside the Lassen National Park. Its 7
newly built cottages (in 2015) offer the experience of "luxury in the
forest" with rustic chic decor and premium amenities, and are surrounded by
the enchanting mountains and meadows. It also has unblocked sky view
and darkest nights, and it is perfect for
- Sunset & Milky Way
After a delicious
dinner (we decided to bring our own meals so we did not need to go to
restaurants to eat), I went back to the park for some sunset/dusk photos.
I came back to the lodge after dark, and started to shoot the stars and Milk
Way just about 10 steps from our cabin.
Day 2 (9/21)...
- Cinder Cone
Cinder Cone volcano, in the park's northeast corner,
first erupted about 1650 AD. Ash deposits from its eruption are still
found 8-10 miles away. Cinder cones form when blobs of gas-charged
lava explode from a volcano's vent, then fall back to earth as cooled
fragments of rock. The 4-mile round-trip sandy trail climbs gently at
first, bordered by woodlands on the right and Cinder Cone's lava flow known
as the Fantastic Lava Beds on the left. The last 0.3 miles was a
grilling torture of 500 feet of constant climbing (~35% grade). After
25 minutes of struggling on the steep loose gravel slope (I needed to take a
few seconds of short breaks for
about every 20 steps of climbing), we finally reached the top and it was
amazing to be able to see the bottom of the crater. On a clear
day, it has outstanding views of Mt. Lassen and the surrounding colorful
cinder fields and painted dunes. However, it was quite hazy today due
to the wildfire nearby and the wind direction that we could not see Lassen
Peak at all.
We came down the Cinder Cone from the trail on the
southern side. It was actually easier than we expected once we got the
rhythm of the "controlled sliding" on the gravel slope. In our entire
4-hour of hiking and strolling at the Cinder Cone, we did not see any other
hikers until we were back to the trailhead.
- Manzanita Lake
We headed back to the main Lassen Peak Highway
(Highway 89) and entered the park from Manzanita Lake in the north.
There is an easy trail winding gently around Manzanita Lake. It is
well shaded and wanders along the shoreline, and is best known for its
spectacular views of Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags. Unfortunately, it
was still too hazy to get a clear view and the classic reflection of the
mountains in the lake (like what
I got back in 2001).
- Chaos Crags & Chaos Jumbles
- Childs Meadow
It was so nice to relax in the hot tub (our cottage has
a private hot tub just outside our cabin) and enjoy the sunset and cold beer
after a long day.
Day 3 (9/22) ...
- Cold Boiling Lake and Crumbaugh Lake
We picked an easy 2.6-mile
(round trip) trail to Cold Boiling Lake and Crumbaugh Lake. The
trail is fairly level to Cold Boiling Lake, and then descends gradually to
Crumbaugh Lake. Cold Boiling Lake is a "dying" hydrothermal area that
continues to emit small amounts of gas bubbles at some points near the shore
where the water has dried up at this late summer season.
- Lassen Peak and Lake Helen
I stopped by a turn out right after the
Lassen Peak Trailhead, and walked toward a section of road which provides
the best open view of Lake Helen and its surrounding mountains.
- Sulphur Works
Sulphur Works is the park's most easily accessed
hydrothermal area featuring boiling mudpots and steam vents viewable via a
sidewalk. We had a quick look at Sulphur Works as our final stop
Going Home ...
|Before heading out of the park, we
passed by the visitor center for the restroom and had a relaxed snack
time at the outdoor patio. It was a nice short trip to Lassen
National Park during the pandemic. It was easy to maintain social distance in the park
(most people did wear masks when there were people around). It was
also good to revisit some place that we have not returned for a long
time (Woanyu actually did not remember much from our last trip in
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