Lassen’s largest and most hyperactive hydrothermal region is Bumpass Hell, a 16-acre collection of steaming vents, mud pots and fumaroles. An interpreted nature trail leads to Bumpass Hell and back.

Bumpass Hell Nature Trail leads to Bumpass Hell and back for a 3 mile round trip hike; from Kings Creek Picnic Area to Bumpass Hell is 5 miles round trip with 1,200-foot elevation gain.

The steaming vents and boiling waters of Bumpass Hell are an ever-present reminder of the area's volcanic past. (courtesy NPS)
The steaming vents and boiling waters of Bumpass Hell are an ever-present reminder of the area’s volcanic past. (courtesy NPS)

The path is a good introduction to the park. You’ll learn about volcanism–hot rocks and cooling magma, cinder cones and shield volcanoes. Lassen’s plant life is also on display: white bark pine and mountain hemlock, accompanied by a ground cover of pinemat Manzanita and mountain heather. Slopes are seasonally sprinkled with silver lupine.

Kendall V. Bumpass discovered the hellish landscape in 1864. A year later, while guiding a newspaper editor into the hot zone, he stepped through the crust over a mud pot. Bumpass lost a leg as a result of his plunge into the boiling water.

(Keep the misadventure of Mr. Bumpass in mind when you explore his hell; stay on the wooden boardwalk for safety.)

Bumpass Hell Nature Trail is the most popular pathway in the park. You can avoid the crowds by hiking to Bumpass Hell from King Creek Picnic Area instead of the main trailhead by Lake Helen. This five-mile round trip jaunt tours well-named Cold Boiling Lake, and offers excellent vistas of volcano country.

Directions: Well-signed Bumpass Hell Nature Trail begins from the south side of Lassen Park Road by Lake Helen, some 11 miles from the junction of Highways 36 and 89.