Lassen National Park is located in the North-Eastern part of California. Speaking in terms of natural boundaries rather than man-made ones, it is the southernmost part of the Cascade mountain range that stretches north through Oregon and Washington and into Canada. Unlike the tightly packed Sierra Nevada range that lies South East, the Cascades include mountains that have gaps between them. A typical Oregonian horizon will include a few snow clad peaks jutting out of the ground like pyramids or even pillars. Unlike the Sierras, the Cascade peaks are usually volcanic in character. Mount St. Helens in southern Washington State whose catastrophic eruption in 1980 claimed many lives had a resurgence of volcanic activity in 2004 but died down despite fears of a repeat of 1980. Prior to the 1980 eruption of St. Helens, the biggest eruption in the US mainland was the 1915 eruption of Mount Lassen.
Other nearby national park areas include the Lava Beds National Monument away near the NE corner of the state that contain several underground lava tubes, Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon that contains the deep blue lake that is the deepest in the country.
Lassen National Park can be accessed from the south via Hwy 36 east of Red Bluff on I-5. The Park Headquarters is in the town of Mineral which is, strangely, outside the park boundary.
Attractions inside the park include visiting the geothermal areas of Sulphur Works, Bumpass Hell, Cold Boiling Lake, Devil's Kitchen, several hiking trails and the relatively easy hike to the top of Lassen Peak.
Mt Tehama Caldera
Start: Lassen Peak parking area
Round Trip Distance: 5 miles
Round Trip Time: 3 hours
Terrain: Steep 2000 foot elevation gain
Elevation: 8500 feet at trailhead, 10,457 feet at summit
On May 22, 1915, an explosive eruption at Lassen Peak, the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range, devastated nearby areas and rained volcanic ash as far away as 200 miles to the east. This explosion was the most powerful in a 1914-17 series of eruptions that were the last to occur in the Cascades before the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Lassen Peak is the largest of a group of more than 30 volcanic domes erupted over the past 300,000 years in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The Trail: The trail to the top of Lassen Peak begins at the peak parking area at an elevation of 8500 feet. The popular trail is 2.5 miles one-way to the summit. There are many switchbacks and the trail can be steep and rocky in sections. There are many fantastic vistas of the park and surrounding areas from the trail. The summit provides one of the most spectacular views of the Devastated Area, a view from the top looking down. This view is the best vantage point to contemplate the power of the 1914-17 eruptions. The lingering rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulfide near the summit reminds visitors that Lassen is still considered an active, but dormant, volcano.
There are several geothermal areas in Lassen Volcanic National Park. These are remnants of former volcanic activity and include several groups of hot springs and fumaroles. Most of these lie in or are near the Mount Tehama's caldera, an eroded Stratovolcano.
The Bumpass Hell geothermal area, the most spectacular of these, spans 16 acres and has hot springs, fumaroles, and boiling mud pots. As part of Mount Tehama's main vent, it is the result of fissures that tap the volcanic heat. Abundant water results in clear springs during early summer, but as the season progresses and the water supply decreases, springs change successively to turbid, warm pools, spattering mudpots, and finally steaming fumaroles. There are no true geysers within Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Bumpass Hell Boardwalk