Lassen Peak, along with fellow volcano Mt. Shasta, stand mightily above lesser peaks and valleys of northern California. One-hundred mile views are the hiker’s reward for climbing the 10,453-foot peak.
The hike on Lassen Peak Trail to the peak is 5 miles round trip with 2,000-foot elevation gain.
The peak is the southernmost volcano in a chain of volcanic mountains that extend from California through Oregon and Washington to British Columbia. Lassen is also part of the Pacific Ocean-ringing series of volcanoes called the Circle of Fire.
Lassen erupted many times from 1914 to 1917. A 1915 explosion known as the Great Hot Blast sent volcanic debris five miles into the sky. Ash fell as far away as Reno, Nevada.
One hike highlight is a look at the aptly named Devastated Area, a reminder of the volcano’s power located just below the northeast summit.
Lassen Peak Trail begins just a mile north of the park’s most popular hike—the nature trail to Bumpass Hell.
Directions: From Interstate 5 in Redding, follow Highway 44 east to Lassen Volcanic National Park. From Interstate 5 in Red Bluff, follow Highway 36 to the park. Highway 89 extends north-south through the national park and provides access to most of its prominent features, including the well-marked trailhead for Lassen Peak. Park visitor centers are located near the junctions of highways 44 and 89 as well as highways 36 and 44.
The hike: The path begins its no-nonsense climb right away, switchbacking through a scattered stand of mountain hemlock. Even the first mile of the climb is viewful: look for Lake Almanor to the southeast, Brokeoff Peak and other park summits to the near west, the (often hazy) Sacramento Valley to the far west.
As you climb, you’ll notice the hemlock are supplanted by the hardier whitebark pine, more tolerant of higher elevations and harsher alpine conditions.
The path levels some atop the summit ridgetop just west of the peak before conquering Lassen Peak. Look northwest for awesome views of Mt. Shasta. Westward is the Coast Range. To the south are the northernmost peaks of the High Sierra.
(Ambitious hikers can follow the rough path leading through the lava flow to the peak’s north rim for another fine view, particularly to the north.)