Sep 17, 2012

Back on Memory Lane- Lassen Volcanic National Park

Back on Memory Lane again ... Couple of years ago, in September I visited the Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. It is not as popular as Yosemite or Grand Canyon but, it is abundant in history and natural wonders. Since then I visited this park 3 more times and hiked most of the trails. It keeps coming back to memory because here is the first time I saw a volcanic cinder cone, I saw the boiling pots, the water green with acid! In later years I saw much better places but, first time is something ... Right now, I am in California, USA ... just touring around ... visited Lassen again! Thought of posting a comprehensive report on all trips together!

The National Park ...

Situated in Northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park provides great variety of activities for all types of crowds. Being in high altitude it has a different landscapes to offer, high peaks and craters, creeks and waterfalls, hydrothermal formations, lava beds to name a few. In summer the days are sunny and dry and nights are cool. The park is accessible from Hwy-44 in north and Hwy-36 in south and hwy 89 runs through the park.

I would call this place as Land of Volcanoes. You know? Per volcanic science four types of volcanoes exist on this Earth. They are plug domes, composite, shield and cinder cones. And all these four types exist in Lassen. Well, most of them are dead except Mt Lassen. So, I thought of climbing up all of them ... and I did, it wasn't difficult at all! And another interesting thing about this national park is, Mt. Lassen is the first volcano that erupted in continental USA in 1914 in 20th century.

Having camped at most of the campgrounds in four trips I can say this ... Lost Creek campground is very near to the main entrance is much isolated from crowds. Summit Lake campgrounds are some what crowded and in summer you can find swarms of mosquitoes, they bite you. Butte Lake campground is the best, secluded! But, one has to drive 6 miles on a dirt road. I happened to see a baby bear here!

On the trails …

On my several trips to this park I did two hikes per day, a long-strenuous one and the other short-easy based on the area. That way I could do most of the trails without getting exhausted.

Hikes-1 : Mt. Lassen and Kings Creek Falls
Mt Lassen is 5 miles moderately strenuous out-and-back hike. The views of Lake Helen, Lake Almeanor, Mt Shasta and the devastated area are spectacular. Mt Lassen is a plug-dome type of volcano and is still considered to be an active volcano which is sleeping for a long time. Sometimes people can smell the hydrogen sulfide at the summit. Woooooo ! I was standing on the top of an active volcano !! There was still snow on the peak. Since Lassen peak is a plug-dome there is no attractive crater but, the view of Mt Shasta from the top is spectacular. The actual summit is few feet up the rocky trail. I twisted my left ankle in the process when I stepped on a loose sharp rock. Climbing down the peak with a freshly twisted ankle was a painful experience. When I was back at the trailhead my ankle was clearly swollen. I should have stopped there itself. I didn't and even now, my left ankle creates problems for longer hikes. 

Then I had coffee at the restaurant at the trailhead and finished my lunch. I wrapped my ankle with an elastic bandage before I headed to Kings Creek falls.  The trail to waterfalls is 3 miles round trip. I couldn’t enjoy much as my ankle was very painful. It wasn’t very long hike but, was quite challenging with some steep rocky portions. The falls had water even in the late summer and definitely a gorgeous waterfalls. After taking few pictures I rested at a cool-shaded place on the banks of Kings Creek. On the way back I took the Equestrian trail as it was much flatter and looked easier. I was tired by end of this hike. 

Hikes-2: Brokeoff Mountain and Bumpass Hell

Brokeoff mountain trail is 7 miles out-and-back, moderately strenuous hike with plenty of switchbacks in the shade and the sun. The views were spectacular, Lassen peak on one side and distant Mt. Shasta on other. Lake Alameanor was elusive in the distant hazy horizon. I had lunch on the top though it was very windy there.
Here is some info on Brokeoff mountain … Brokeoff Mountain, seen here in Lassen Volcanic National Park, was once part of a much larger composite volcano, called Brokeoff Volcano, that towered 1000 feet above Lassen Peak and looked similar to Mount Shasta.

That means I climbed a great mountain :) Well, this mountain reminds me of a movie Brokeback Mountain, just because of the name. After descending I had some rest under the shade of pine trees before I started to Bumpass Hell trail to see the hydrothermal activity. I had great expectations about this as I had never seen such a thing before, except for on NGC.
It was a 3 miles round trip hike and half of it is in the hydrothermal area where the ground is hot and white, and water is boiling blue-green acid and air is all sulphur. It was amazing to see the boiling waterholes and steaming ground. It was different feeling walking on the wooden paltform over dangerous ground. 

Hikes-3 : Prospects Peak and Cinder Cone
Camping at Butte Lake is very convenient for these hikes. Prospects Peak, the shield volcano, trailhead starts from Butte Lake and was only 7 miles round-trip with a steady climb over an easy grade. Still it is very hard on the knees and ankles as we have to walk on the loose volcanic ash/gravel. The views from top of Prospects Peak are spectacular. One can see Burney Mountain Look out ... to ... Mt Shasta ... There was a register in this rusted box ... I printed my name with date ...

Trail to Cinder Cone is just 4 miles round trip. It ‘looks’ very hard to climb up the cone than really it is. Yeah, the trail is full of black, volcanic loose gravel and hence it is hard on the ankles and calf muscles. Another thing about Cinder Cone is you can’t imagine how amazing it is at the top my looking at it from the base.
When I reached the top I was lost and I was not able to decide from which angle to take pictures. The view of Mt Lassen, Butte Lake and Snag Lake from top of Cinder Cone are spectacular. The painted dunes and fantastic lava beds are for miles. Climbing down on the trail was kind of fun. The loose gravel makes you slip but doesn’t make you really fall. Making it to the summit of Cinder Cone completed my project of climbing a 4-types of volcanoes! Yey!

Hikes-4 : Cluster Lakes Loop

Next, I went for Cluster Lakes loop hike, the trailhead is at Summit Lake campground. It was a 12 miles easy and beautiful hike in the shade of redwood and pine trees. There are about 10 lakes in this cluster, seven of them named and three are unnamed. Some lakes were deep blue in color and some emerald green. It was very nice to walk on the lakes-side, it was cool and breezy ... almost flat trail under the happy green trees. There were blue jays everywhere ... though their song is not that melodious, they brought more color and life to already beautiful landscape there ... I went on ... Echo Lake ... Upper Twin Lake ... Lower Twin Lake ... Feather Lake ... Silver Lake ... Big Bear Lake ... Little Bear Lake ... some unnamed lake ... and then Summit Lake ... and I was back at the trailhead ... 

Hikes-5 : Easy flat Manzanita Lake, Reflection Lake and Lily Pond

I had one spare day just to go around and I went for some easier hikes around Manzanita Lake, around Reflection Lake and Lily pond trail. Lily Pond Trail is an interpretive and self-guided trail, but there was no one other than me. I saw the Lily Pond but no lilies, only leaves ... beautiful though. These trails are for families with little ones. 
Reflection Lake is beautiful from where I could get the nice views of Chaos Crags and Lassen Peak. And I saw a family of deer near Manzanita Lake. I picked a spot and settled on the banks of this lake ... I could see people kayaking, and fishing ... there are trout here ... and there is a limit of three trout per day for fishing ... I could see the trout jumping out of the water a bit and making a 'tout' sound ... after a while I got used to that sound ... I even saw a mammal which was swimming in the water looked like a huge rat. Could be a wood rat or could be a beaver.

While driving back home I always had dinner at Wong's Chinese Restaurant. It is very near to the highway and they served good food with no MSG added. Lassen is one of the interesting National Parks in California. 

Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts :)

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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Brilliant shots Kusum. Interesting post with a lot of information.

  2. All clicks are breathtaking Kusum! The second pic of Mt. Lassen is the best. It gives a feeling of a wanderer, just walking alone aimlessly. Broke off mountain too reminded me off brokeback mountain movie :-) and trekking 4 volcanoes, that is indeed quite a feat Kusum!

    1. Thank you Jenny! Yeah, it is a great experience.

  3. Lovely landscapes and I too was reminded of the Brokeback Mountain...:)


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