Road trippin’: Visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park

Mount Lassen is seen from Manazanita Lake in California.

Mount Lassen is seen from Manazanita Lake in California.

It’s not too scary to stand on top of a volcano. There are actually a few about 200 miles away. Lassen Volcanic National Park in California is a natural wonder. It’s not too far from the region and there’s so much to explore. The place will keep you busy for quite some time.

The premier attraction to the park is Mount Lassen. The 10,463-foot mountain is an active volcano. The hike to get to the summit is 2.1 miles with an elevation gain of 1,948 feet. But on a day in early June when I went, there was still a vast amount of snow, which made finding the original trail difficult.

For some background, Mount Lassen accumulates more snow than anywhere else in California. According to a brochure from the National Park Service, the mountain averages 600 inches a year, but the snowfall reaches more than 1,000 inches in some years. Since there was so much leftover snow in June, many people were taking advantage of the long winter. The mountain was full of backcountry skiers when I got there. It would’ve been nice if I had the gear for backcountry skiing. Everyone riding down the mountain looked like they were having fun.

The trail was discouraging with all the snow, and a buddy of mine was unsure if we should attempt it. We decided to go at it. The hard part was it didn’t follow the switchbacks of the normal trail. Instead, the trail went straight up one long, steep section. It was baby steps climbing up what felt like a ladder. We went up quite a ways farther, but we turned back about a half-mile before the summit due to the difficulty and being pressed for time. Going down the steep part was much quicker in my nylon pants when I decided to sit down and fly down that stretch.

The next morning, the plan was to see these remarkable tunnels where lava flowed through at one point. The Subway Lava Tubes contain a 1/3-mile long tunnel you can walk through. The name helps describe these tunnels, as they seem about the size of an underground tunnel for a subway car. As you venture into the tunnel, the sunlight disappears and you’re in pitch darkness. The shape of the tunnel is fairly consistent, but there are a couple of rooms the lava cut into on the side and created, such as one named Lucifer’s Cul-De-Sac.

One of the most popular destinations of Lassen Volcanic National Park is Bumpass Hell. Unfortunately, this area is closed for 2018, as the park will make improvements and repairs to the trail. Bumpass Hell is full of geothermal activity. The temperature of the water in this area is close to boiling. Steam can be seen rising from the cracks of the earth along with boiling pools of mud.

There are other opportunities to see similar activity. My first stop in the park was at Sulphur Works. This spot is close to the southern entrance of the park and is just a short walk from the parking area. Here you can see a bubbling mud pit and steam coming out of the surrounding area. It also reeks of sulphur.

I hiked one last trail to finish the trip. I checked out the Kings Creek Waterfall, which is a popular trail from the looks of it. I went above and beyond and added Bench Lake and Siffon Lake to complete a loop — and it was well worth it with tremendous sites to see and wilderness to explore. The total hike was about 6.3 miles.

I didn’t get to check out all that I wanted on my visit. This park is huge, and combined with the Lassen National Forest that surrounds it, that’s a large chunk of wilderness to explore. I can’t wait to get back to Lassen. There are some other trips I need to do before, but I will be making plans to go back to Lassen again in my future.

Kyler Klix is a designer and occasional contributer at the Nevada Appeal. If you’d like to talk about nature or upcoming concerts, email him at


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