Last update: 01/06/2019
When we say that California is a state full of surprises, we're not kidding! Did you know that there is an active volcano in California? What's more, that its last major eruption was at the beginning of the 20th century? Well, curious as we are, we went to explore the Lassen Volcanic National Park and tell you what to find there.
THE LASSEN VOLCANIC PARK
With an impressive geological diversity, but little known to most people who visit California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in Northern California, approximately 380 km north of San Francisco. Often called the “Yellowstone of California” in reference to the incredible park located in the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Lassen Volcanic is named after the volcano’s existence. Lassen Peak, the world's largest sealed dome volcano!
This volcano, 3,187 meters high and with a volume of 2 km³, had on May 22, 1915, a powerful explosive eruption that devastated nearby areas, with landslides and felling trees, spreading gases and volcanic ash around 300 km. This explosion was the most powerful in a series of eruptions that occurred between the years 1914 and 1917. However, until 1921, steam eruptions continued to occur. Currently, Lassen Peak is dormant, but is still considered active.
There are other volcanoes in the park, but they are inactive. In fact, Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the few areas in the world where all four volcano types can be found (shield volcanoes, scoria cones, stratovolcanoes and resurgent calderas). In the park are still places with sulfur vapors, bubbling mud ditches, boiling water fountains, fumaroles and geysers.
WHEN TO EXPERIENCE LASSEN VOLCANIC PARK
The park is crossed by the Main Park Road (closed in winter). And you might be wondering why this road closes in winter? The answer is simple: snow, lots of snow! Due to the altitude, it usually snows a lot in the park, which makes it practically impossible to visit it outside the june to october, unless you are adventurous and like to play sports and winter (check out the winter activities in this link). Therefore, a super tip is to consult the park's official website weather conditions and which roads are closed to avoid unpleasant surprises.
ACTIVITIES IN SUMMER AND AUTUMN
With more than 150 km of hiking trails, either hiking during the day or taking a backpack are popular summer activities. One of the hottest trips is to visit Lassen's active hydrothermal areas, including Sulfur Works and Bumpass Hell. Note that due to excess snow, the Bumpass Hell trail usually doesn't open until mid-July. Summer is the season is also a great time to enjoy ranger-led programs and special events.
SPRING AND WINTER ACTIVITIES
Lassen gets over 30 feet of snow on average each winter! The season usually starts in October and runs until June or July. snowplay, skiing, and snowshoeing are great ways to enjoy Lassen's winter wonderland. For more information on planning a winter visit, visit winter activities page or read the winter edition of Peak Experiences, the park's newspaper.
WHAT TO KNOW AT LASSEN VOLCANIC PARK
The interactive map below shows the main attractions at Lassen Volcanic Park. You can take a car-only tour through Main Park Road, the park's main road, or include some trails of varying difficulty in the itinerary.
Lassen Volcanic Park has two Visitor Centers that operate at different times throughout the year (see at the end of the post). If you need tips for hiking in the park or other information, speak with a responsible staff member at either of the following two places:
KOHM YAH-MAH-NEE VISITOR CENTER
Open year-round, the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center is an ideal place to plan your visit to Lassen Volcanic. There is an exhibition hall where you can learn more about the volcanic nature of the park and watch a 20-minute film that provides an overview of the park's history and geology. On site, you will also find a Café, a gift shop and a bookstore that offers a wide variety of educational items. It is located at the south entrance of the park.
Located by Lake Manzanita at the park's northeast entrance, the historic Loomis Museum is only open during the summer months. The site offers exhibits, an auditorium showing an educational film from the park, and a bookstore. An exhibit includes photos by BF Loomis that have documented the most recent eruption cycle of Lassen Peak. Additional exhibits include the original equipment used to document the eruptions and traditional Atsugewi basketry. From the museum you can take the trail around Lake Manzanita to admire the view of Lassen Peak. Another option is to cross the road for a walk along the Lily Pond Nature Trail.
2. SULPHUR WORKS
Another unmissable attraction for geology admirers. Sulphurs Works is an old sulfur mine (brace yourself for the rotten egg smell) that was once quite successful, before it became a national park. The place is a festival of colors derived from clay minerals in orange, yellow and red, with smoke rising through the air.
Although the park's focus is not on enjoying waterfalls, there are two beautiful waterfalls that can be a good option for a walk during the summer:
- Mill Creek Falls: a 23-meter high waterfall (the highest in the park), accessed by a 6 km trail (round trip)
- Kings Creek Falls: a waterfall approximately 15 meters high, accessed by a trail of almost 4 km (round trip)
4. EMERALD LAKE
Emerald Lake is a small lake that sits in a glacial basin below Ski Heil Peak, in the vicinity of Lassen Peak and about half a kilometer from Lake Helen. Both lakes were formed by glacial structures, carved out of Dacite rock by the action of the huge glaciers that existed in the area. During the winter months, it often gets frozen. Paulo took the opportunity to rest lying on a tree trunk that was inside the lake. The lake bed is all soft sand.
5. LAKE HELEN
Lake Helen is one of the best places in the park to admire Lassen Peak. Due to low temperatures, it is common for it to be frozen (or almost) for much of the year until midsummer. The lake bed is all made of stones and it is difficult to walk around the place barefoot, as the stones hurt your feet. In fact, the water is freezing cold even in summer. It is a very deep lake, reaching a depth of 33 meters. The peculiar blue color of the lake is the result of the mineral content of the water. Whoever ventures to climb Lassen Peak, it is recommended to start the ascent early in the morning, when the sun is still weaker. Don't forget to wear suitable shoes and clothes and bring water, sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself.
6. BUMPASS HELL
With this suggestive name (Inferno umpass), this place is a geology class! Here, most of the hydrothermal resources of the park in 6.5 hectares of boiling springs and bubbling mud ditches. As the story goes, Danish explorer Kendall Vanhook Bumpass ended up getting burned badly when he stepped into a boiling pool of water in the 1860s while walking through the region. Currently, the area has a trail of approximately 5 km (round trip from the parking lot) well signposted, with beautiful views. But a detail, the smell in the place is terrible, like rotten eggs, due to the natural gases of the region. The erupting mud pits cause a symphony of bizarre noises. See more details about the location in the post “Bumpass Hell, the main attraction at Lassen Volcanic Park” written by Waldana, from the blog Acaba no Vale.
7. DEVILS KITCHEN
One nearly 7 km trail leads to Lassen Volcanic Park's second largest hydrothermal area, “Devil's Kitchen”. In the area, bubbling mud puddles, steam vents and fermenting water live up to the name.
8. SUMMIT LAKE
This was one of the most amazing areas we saw in the park. The place has two areas for camping, called Summit Lake North and Summit Lake South, which are located next to the lake. Here, you can start the Cluster Lake trail from the Summit Lake Ranger Station parking lot. Evening programs are offered at the Summit Lake Amphitheater.
9. DEVASTED AREA
This area, which even has a small trail, was devastated by the eruption of the Lassen volcano in 1915, as we mentioned earlier. In this region, you have the opportunity to see the area that was devastated by it.
10. LAKE MANZANITA
This is one of the most important lakes in the entire park. In summer, it is possible to swim, rent kayaks, camp and relax. The lake is right next to the Loomis Museum and is worth stopping to take some beautiful photographs. This area is also widely used for picnics and camping, as it has a good infrastructure of bathrooms and showers.
WHERE TO STAY AT LASSEN VOLCANIC
- Drakesbad Guest Ranch: This is the only lodge in the park and is operated by the park's concessionaire, California Guest Company. The site offers overnight accommodations in historic lodge, cabins and bungalows; gourmet meals; a pool powered by a hydrothermal vent; and a wide variety of activities.
- Campgrounds & Camping Cabins: Lassen Volcanic has eight camping sites located in the park. Rustic cabins are available at Manzanita Lake Campground.
There are also several other options in the surroundings of the park for all budgets and tastes.
BOOK NOW your hotel and save up to 50%. Travelers readers are with a SUPER DISCOUNT! And the best, with FREE CANCELLATION*!
*check the hotels with free cancellation on the website
COLLECTION OF PANORAMICS OF THE PARK
- Address: 38050 Hwy 36 E, Mineral, CA 96063
- Schedules: confirm exactly the days of the current year in this link
- Park: year round, 24 hours a day
- Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center:
- April to October: daily from 9 am to 5 pm
- November to March: Wednesday to Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm / closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
- Lassen Cafe & Gift (inside the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center):
- summer*: daily from 9 am to 5 pm
- September to April: 11 am to 2 pm
- May: 9 am to 4 pm
- Loomis Museum: open only from Memorial Day holiday (late May) to late October / closed from November to May
- Memorial Day through the first half of June: Friday through Sunday 9 am to 5 pm
- from the second half of June to the end of October: from 9 am to 5 pm
- Manzanita Lake Camper Store: open only from the second half of May to the first half of October
- from the first half of May to the beginning of June: from 8 am to 5 pm
- mid-June to the third week of August: 7am to 9pm
- Last week of August to early September: Friday to Saturday from 7 am to 9 pm / Monday to Thursday from 8 am to 6 pm
- from early September to early October: 8 am to 5 pm
- Regular Pass: US$ 25 per car (valid for 7 days between mid-April and late November)
- Winter Pass: US$ 10 per car (valid for 7 days from December to mid-April)
- US$ 12 per person walking, cycling or on commercial vehicle tours
- US$ 20 per motorcycle
- free with the American Parks National Pass (US$ 80, valid for 1 year and gives access to all national parks)
*American summer: considered between Memorial Day (last Monday in May) and Labor Day (first Monday in September)
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Read more about parks and the like in California:
- The amazing Yosemite Park in California
- California: Death Valley, the Valley of Death
- California: Where to Stay and Eat in Death Valley
- Scotty's Castle: Death Valley's Most Visited Attraction
- California: The Experience of Feeling Over 50ºC in Death Valley
- Muir Woods: Giant Sequoias Next to San Francisco
- California coastline: Point Reyes
- California Coast: Fort Ross, the Russian Fort