With 150 miles of trail, Lassen is very much a hiker’s park. The national park, located where the Cascade Range approaches the High Sierra, shares flora and wildlife common to both mountain ranges. Interpretive paths introduce strangers to a strange land of lava while forest trails, lake trails and a 17-mile length of Pacific Crest Trail explore surrounding wildland.
Lassen Peak is perhaps least known of the major Cascade Range volcanoes. Mt. Rainier is one of national park’s “crown jewels,” majestic Mt. Shasta dominates northern California, and Mt. Saint Helens provided fireworks with its relatively recent (1980) eruption.
Lassen National Park’s location, 250 miles north of San Francisco, in a remote, sparsely populated region of northeastern California, also contributes to its relatively obscure image.
Lassen’s claim to volcanic fame rests on the diversity of its features. Scientists come from all over the world to examine the cinder cones and steaming hydrothermal areas.
Lassen Peak was even less well-known before May of 1914 when the world’s largest plug dome volcano began to erupt. By 1916 the area was set aside as a national park, though Lassen’s eruptions, some 150 of them, continued until 1921.
Nineteenth-century trail guide and park namesake Peter Lassen is remembered as a not-so-dependable leader who sometimes led parties of emigrants astray. As the story goes, one group of pioneers became so irate at their lost leader they forced him at gunpoint to climb the 10,457-foot volcano that now bears his name in order to search for the correct trail.
The bizarre lava-scape–a mini-Yellowstone of roaring fumaroles, bubbling mudpots and hissing vents–located in the southern part of the park is, for the most part, easy to reach by auto and short trails. Park service interpretive efforts in the thermal areas are excellent.
The park’s eastern sector is enchanting in an altogether different way. A chain of lakes extends from Butte Lake in the north to Juniper Lake in the south. Forests of pine and fir and wildflower-sprinkled meadows beckon the backcountry adventurer.
For more information, call 530-595-4480 or visit the Lassen Volcanic National Park site.