Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

“Miles of its flanks are reeking and bubbling with hot springs, many of them so boisterous and sulphurous they seem ever ready to become spouting geysers…”

The adventurer and naturalist John Muir wrote these words after visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park. In 1915, less than half a year after his passing, Lassen Peak erupted, pouring rocks and thick smoke into the air and leveling entire forests. For the surrounding plants and wildlife, spouting geysers turned out to be the least of their concern.

View of Bumpass Hell from the boardwalk

View of Bumpass Hell from the boardwalk

Our C2J explorer group reconvened this past weekend on another camping trip – this time to Lassen Volcanic National Park, located about four hours northeast of San Francisco. We spent the weekend hiking, enjoying the scenery, and exploring the various cool features a volcanic landscape had to offer, from bubbling mudpots to steaming hydrothermal vents to multi-colored pools.

It was a relaxing and fun trip, with tons to do and see. Read on for the highlights of our experience at Lassen!

Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center

The visitor center was one of our first stops in the park. Translated into “Snow Mountain,” Kohm Yah-mah-nee was the local Native American name for Lassen Peak. The center was a newer one and contained tons of great information on the park and the surrounding area. Apart from interesting exhibits about the different types of volcanoes, the 1915 eruptions, and the history of the park, the visitor center also had an interactive 3D map that was perfect for figuring out what to do and see.

C2J crew enjoying lunch near Sulphur Works

C2J crew enjoying lunch near Sulphur Works

Sulphur Works

Named for the sulfur-infused water heated by molten rock underground, Sulphur Works was the perfect introduction to the park. A huge boiling mudpot and the smell of rotten eggs (from the sulfur) greeted us off the side of the road, mesmerizing us with its constant bubbling. We walked across the road to see steam rising from vents in the hills. The place felt alive and most certainly was, with all the volcanic activity going on miles below us.

The boiling mudpot at Sulphur Works

The boiling mudpot at Sulphur Works

Bumpass Hell

Named after the guide who burned his leg from accidentally stepping into one of the boiling pools of water, Bumpass Hell is one of the park’s main attractions. A quick 1.5-mile hike takes visitors to another world – an alien land with green pools, milky gray streams, and steaming fumaroles coming from the earth.

After admiring the panoramic view of the entire area from afar, we walked closer to the acid pools and hydrothermal vents in the valley below. We were careful to stay on the boardwalk since visitors have been burned after going off-trail and breaking through thin ground filled with boiling-hot water.

The two most famous landmarks in Bumpass Hell are West Pyrite Pool, a large milky-green acid pool, and Big Boiler, one of the hottest fumaroles (steam vents) in the world. The pastel green, tan, and gray colors of the landscape contrasted nicely with the clear blue sky.

West Pyrite Pool and Big Boiler at Bumpass Hell

West Pyrite Pool and Big Boiler at Bumpass Hell

Manzanita Lake

We ended our first day and started our second day at Manzanita Lake, a short walk from our campsite. The lake itself was gorgeous, with wildlife and the occasional kayaker dotting the water. Right before sunset the water transformed into a giant mirror, reflecting the sky and trees to jaw-dropping results. The following morning at the lake was equally beautiful. We admired the clear blue water and took in the fresh air before continuing our park exploration.

Manzanita Lake at sunset

Manzanita Lake at sunset

Devastated Area Interpretive Trail

This easy walk offers an educational experience for visitors who want to learn more about the volcanic eruption and its effects on the surrounding environment. The trail was set up in a way that allowed folks to pick their own direction and areas to check out. The trail was scattered with giant volcanic rocks, some the size of tractors. Other parts consisted of flat land where forests were leveled.

Devastated area with Lassen Park ominously in the back

Devastated area with Lassen Park ominously in the back

Lassen Peak

Brave visitors can venture to the top of the active (but dormant) volcano, a straightforward 5 mile round trip hike. The view from the top is supposed to be quite amazing, offering great views of the park and surrounding areas. We chose to enjoy lunch near the trailhead, walking up a small rocky trail to a shady area with plenty of rock seating. Food, friends, and beautiful scenery – it was a perfect ending to a fun and relaxing trip!

Trailhead to Lassen Peak

Trailhead to Lassen Peak


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  1. February 18, 2016

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