Lassen Volcanic National Park

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A Trip to (Bumpass) Hell and Back...

Jul 12, 2004 (Updated Jul 13, 2004)
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Pros:Fascinating scenery, clean air, geothermal action

Cons:High altitude, snow closes most of the park most of the year.

The Bottom Line: For a fascinating look at geothermal activity and the destruction and recovery brought on by a volcano, I recommend visiting Lassen National Park.


Summary: A National Park set up to preserve the results of a volcanic eruption in 1914 and 1915. The park also contains the geothermal area associated with the volcano.

Cost: $10 for 7 days (A National Park Pass [$50] will admit you to all National Parks and Monuments for no additional charge)

Open: Year-round - 24 hours a day.
Southwest Area/ Lassen Chalet Gift Shop & Snack Bar -
May 27 - June 18; 9:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M.
June 19 - September 5; 9:00 A.M. - 6:00 P.M.
September 6 - October 11; 9:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M.
Loomis Museum, Information, & Bookstore -
May 28 - June 20; Open Fri,Sat,Sun; 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.
June 25 - September 6; Open Daily; 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.
September 7 - September 26; Open Fri, Sat,Sun; 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.

Camping: There are eight campgrounds in Lassen but only one, the Southwest Walk-In, is open year round. The others are only open during the brief summer season from July to September, with the exception of the Manzanita campground which opens in May. Prices range from $10 to $16 a night. There are also group camp sites and stock corral sites available.
Nearby lodging: The nearest lodging is in Mineral or Chester.

What is in the Park?: Mudpots, steam vents, bubbling springs, mountain scenery, volcanic formations, mountain meadows, waterfalls.

For more information: Lassen Volcanic National Park site - http://www.nps.gov/lavo/.


Lassen National Park is a pristine wilderness that has been shaped by its (relatively) recent volcanic past.

We visited Lassen twice in the same year, once in late June and once in late September. Due to the high altitude of this park, snow remains in much of the park through June and July.

The vigorous snow melt made for beautiful cascades at every turn. The road through the park had only completely opened the day before we got there (June 23rd). It was incredible to wind through virtual canyons of snow as we followed the road through the park.

From the Devastated Area, we could see rivers of melting snow running down the slope of Lassen Peak like glistening streamers of quicksilver.

While the snow made the park stunningly beautiful, it did mean that much of the park was inaccessible without snow-shoes including the Bumpass Hell geothermal area.

Our return trip in September allowed us to visit the areas we hadn't seen before. We took the hike out to Bumpass Hell with nearly nauseating whiffs of sulphur telling us we were headed in the right direction. Looking over the desolate parched landscape of Bumpass Hell, one can easily understand how the area received its Hell moniker with burping mud-pots, roiling pools and bellowing steam vents.

I have heard that late spring and early summer bring this a flurry of activity to this area as the melting snow seeps into the ground and is brought bursting to the surface by heat of the magma pool beneath the ground. Seeing the activity in the area even as late as September, I cannot fathom what this would be like at full throttle.

We also stopped at the Kings Creek picnic area. In September, this area was a verdant meadow overflowing with wild flowers with the energetic Kings Creek bubbling through the middle of it.

A general word of warning about Lassen Volcanic National Park: The altitude is very high with much of the park being over 7,000'. Both of us got altitude sickness from our hike to Bumpass Hell (symptoms: nausea, headache, dizziness, slowness of thought). My recommendation is to take it easy unless you are used to this. We live near sea-level so it was a really killer for us.

For a fascinating look at geothermal activity and the destruction and recovery brought on by a volcano, I recommend visiting Lassen National Park.


Recommend this product? Yes


Best time to go: September-November
Recommended for: Anybody
Review Topic: Overview

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