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Woman at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
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Woman at Castle Crags State Park
Bikers on the Sundial Bridge in Redding, California
Woman at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The Park Food Truck Hub in Redding, California
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8 Summer Adventures to Experience in Lassen Volcanic National Park

By Zach O'Brien | 07/13/2022

Sitting right outside Redding, California is one of the most underrated National Parks in the United States, loaded with pristine wildlife, beautiful hikes, giant waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes and an active volcano. It’s typically not one of the National Parks you’ll hear when listing America’s most popular parks, and that’s a good thing.

At Lassen Volcanic National Park, you can experience a top-notch outdoor experience without the crowds you see at Yosemite or Yellowstone. And even with its lack of tourists, for our money, you won’t find more outdoor beauty in one wilderness area than in Lassen.

Did we mention it’s easy to get to? Just a 45-minute drive from Redding, you can be up in the wilderness first thing in the morning and be back in town for a hefty meal and craft beer at night. Now that you’re sold, here are the 8 best adventures in the park for your upcoming trip:

Sitting at the centerpiece of Lassen Volcanic National Park is an active volcano that can be seen from virtually any corner of the park. While it certainly looks large in stature, the hike to the top isn’t as strenuous as you might think and it will give you glorious views of the park and the surrounding Northern California wilderness.

The Lassen Peak Trail offers hikers the opportunity to climb to the top of one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world. Beginning at the Lassen Peak parking area, the 2.5 trail (5 miles round trip) climbs through twisted mountain hemlock and whitebark pine trees on sand-like cinders. As the trees begin to thin and vistas of the park come into view, the trail steepens into a series of switchbacks along a rocky ridge to the summit. The maintained trail ends at the first summit where exhibits invite hikers to rest and explore the panoramic views of the park.

One of the most popular places for recreation in Lassen is at Manzanita Lake, which sits right at the north entrance of the park. In fact, it’s the closest destination in Lassen if you’re driving from Redding. At the lake, you’ll discover a lake that’s chock full of wildlife and probably the best way to spend a relaxing day in the park.

Near the Manzanita Lake parking lot, you’ll find a small boat dock that launches kayaks and paddleboards into the lake that doesn’t allow motorized boats. You’ll most likely see fly fishermen on float tubes trying to catch one of the many brown and rainbow trout in the lake. You’ll also see wildlife – A LOT of it. Hikers at Manzanita Lake tend to be met with sightings of blue jays, Canadian geese, otters, and a lot of deer.

Manzanita Lake also gives hikers some of the best views of Lassen Peak in the park. Photographers flock to the lake to get the coveted photo of the volcano reflecting onto the crystal-clear water, which is best seen during sunrise or sunset.

The hyrdrothermal areas in Lassen Volcanic National Park are physical evidence of the intense volcanic activity happening below the ground. There’s no better place to witness this activity above the ground than Bumpass Hell.

Bumpass Hell sits as a breathtaking group of boiling mudpots and steaming vents just below Lassen Peak, with a long boardwalk you can use to see the action up close. The area was named after Kendall Bumpass, who discovered it in 1864 (after the Native Americans, of course) and burned his leg so bad, it had to be amputated. Today, the boardwalk allows visitors to see the area without the danger of accidentally stepping on a dangerous section.

The 3-mile round trip hike to Bumpass Hell is great for the whole family, giving you marvelous views of the surrounding mountains like Lassen Peak, Lake Hellen, Brokeoff Mountain, Mt. Diller. The hike is moderately strenuous, with a few steep hills, but witnessing the beautiful hydrothermal activity up close is well worth the trek.

Lassen Volcanic National Park can be accurately described as both a geologist’s wonderland and an adventurer’s paradise. The hike to Cinder Cone combines both characterizations. A notable geological feature, the 700-foot Cinder cone was formed from scoria or gas-charged lava rocketed into the sky during a volcanic eruption. The Fantastic Lava Beds as well as the Painted Dunes, which flank Cinder Cone, also serve as a reminder of the volcanic origins of the area.

After a gentle hike for the first mile or so at the beginning of the trail, prepare for the strenuous climb to the top of the cone. As you climb, be on the lookout for views of Lassen Peak, Chaos Crags, Prospect Peak, Snag Lake, the Fantastic Lava Beds and the Painted Dunes. At the top of the cone, you have the option of traversing down into the cone’s crater (highly recommended). Cinder Cone is a must-hike for frequenters of Lassen or those with an interest in our region’s geology.

Lassen first showed signs of coming to life on May 30th, 1914 with steam explosions near the summit. These continued for almost a year, more than 180 releases in all, expanding the summit crater by 1,000 feet. On the evening of May 15th, 1915, the first lava was sighted spilling down the flanks of the volcano and filling in the summit crater. A few days later on May 19th another explosion created a new summit crater. There was still 30 feet of snow at the summit, and the hot rocks created a half-mile-wide avalanche that spilled down the side of the volcano and into Hat Creek four miles away.

The next powerful explosion happened around 4 pm on May 22nd, blowing rocks high into the air above the summit. Shortly thereafter a column of volcanic ash and gas rose some 30,000 feet above the mountain, which was visible from 150 miles away. A pyroclastic flow, an angry burst of hot gas and rock blasted down Lassen’s flank at up to 450 miles per hour and 1,000 degrees clearing three square miles of virtually everything in its path.

The eruption of Lassen Peak is a seminal moment in the history of the region, and can be learned with a trip to the Kohm Yah-Mah-Nee Visitor Center at the southwest entrance of the park or the Loomis Museum at the northwest entrance (closest to Redding). Both visitor centers have reading material, photos and even video of the eruption.

There are a ton of great destinations to witness the hydrothermal activity in Lassen Volcanic National Park, but none are more accessible than Sulphur Works.

If you’ve driven through the south entrance of the park, you’ve surely passed Sulpur Works. It’s a boiling mudpot right off the side of the park’s highway that is popular for visitors looking to see hydrothermal activity without a strenuous hike.

Less than a mile past the Kohm Yah-Mah-Nee Visitor Center are the boiling mudpots that you can smell from the entrance of the park. You can park your car in a parking lot just to the side of Sulphur Works to walk around and see the different hydrothermal activity. This is the best place for people looking for a relaxing and educational experience in Lassen.

Several hundred thousand years ago, ancient stratovolcano Mt. Tehama erupted, forming Brokeoff Mountain. Experts suggest Tehama’s explosion matched the destructive proportions of Mt. Saint Helens’ 1980 eruption. Erosion from melting glaciers and volcanic activity has left Brokeoff with a steep north face that appears to have “broken off” from another formation, hence its name.

Lassen Peak hogs a lot of the attention centered on Lassen Volcanic National Park. However, visitors to the area ought not overlook Brokeoff Mountain. Sitting only about four miles from Lassen Peak, 9,235-foot Brokeoff Mountain provides hikers with a slightly more challenging 6.8-mile haul.

A panoramic view from Brokeoff Mountain’s peak provides incredible views of the Coast Range to the west, Mt. Shasta and more notably, Lassen Peak. Be sure to bring cold weather gear as the summit can be quite chilly at times, even in the summer.

Another fascinating hydrothermal region of Lassen is Boiling Springs Lake. In fact, it might be the most interesting lake in Northern California.

Sitting below Boiling Springs Lake is a series of vents that heats the water, bringing it to around 125 degrees year round. The water is oddly colored and on a cold day, steam will rise into the air like a scene from a horror film. Due to the popularity of other areas of Lassen Volcanic National Park, like Manzanita Lake, Lassen Peak and Bumpass Hell, this hike is also one of the more remote in the park.

The Boiling Springs Lake Trail sits near the southwest corner of the park, near the parking area west of Warner Valley Campground. The easy 3-mile trek will bring you by the Drakesbad Ranch and parts of the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a fun trip for anyone looking to avoid the crowds (as small as they may be) in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

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