Saturday, August 1, 2015

Two days in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

With just a week of our epic national parks road trip remaining, we decided to skip the entire Bay Area this time around (sorry, friends!) and just head straight for Lassen Volcanic National Park. We expected beautiful mountains and pretty mountain lakes, and we were looking forward to hiking in pine forests again.

But otherwise we didn't know much about the park (like, for example, that it's still an active volcano - a minor detail) so we were pretty surprised to drive past bubbling cauldrons of mud and steam vents when we first arrived.

We saw most of the major highlights over two full days. As usual, the park rangers were very helpful and the signage throughout the park is accessible and informative - sometimes even funny!

"the volcanoes in the park are not dead,
just resting"

The hikes. There are 150 miles of trails in the park and the PCT also weaves through. Serious hikers who visit the park all want to climb Lassen Peak. The ranger recommended the slightly longer Brokeoff Mountain hike instead, promising amazing panoramas of the park as well as great views of Lassen Peak that you wouldn't see if you climbed the Peak. (Kind of like when I lived in the Bay Area - why live in San Francisco and look at Oakland, when you can live in Oakland and look at San Francisco?)

San Francisco from Oakland
(now it makes sense, right?)

We also walked down to Bumpass Hell to see the "resting" volcanic action, and we hiked down to Mill Creek Falls one morning.

Bumpass Hell pools

burbling, steaming mud
(see a video here)

Lassen Peak from Lake Helen

Mill Creek Falls

Dozens more scenic photographs can be found here... The views really were stunning and the geology of the park is fascinating.

But for me, Lassen was really about the wildflowers. After being in the desert for so long I really couldn't get enough of springtime in the mountains.

[Begin ridiculous flower photo series.]

[End ridiculous flower photo series.]

Dragonflies and butterflies were everywhere too, especially around the walks to Cold Boiling Lake and Summit Lake.

one-month lifespan ...

... seems so unfair ...

... for such beautiful creatures

The campsite. There are three at Lassen - Manzanita Lake in the north, Summit Lake in the central area, and Southwest (guess where that one is located?). We arrived too late for a walk-in site at the Southwest campsite. Summit Lake wasn't open for another week and Manzanita Lake was too far to drive that night, so we headed back down the road to Gurnsey Campground in Lassen National Forest. It would make a good base for exploring the national park if you couldn't actually get a spot in the park, and we'd definitely stay there again.

In the morning we secured our walk-in site at the Southwest campground. Patrick chose the most remote site and we were surrounded by trees and beautiful mountains. It was perfect.

campsite #5 for the win

our backyard view

The food. Campfire cooking for the win... Except for the first night at Gurnsey, when we just needed "easy."

salad by campfire

grilled tofu, veggies, and rice
(and four thumbs up for Unruly Red)

nacho(ish) night

The summary. Lassen totally wowed us. It probably helped that we'd just come from over two weeks of hot, dry desert and almost six weeks of the general south, but I think if we'd gone straight from Portland we would've still been wowed. We definitely want to go back and explore more of the trails but it's also the kind of park where even we, the constant go-getters, would be happy sitting at our campsite and soaking up the views.

y'all come back now, ya hear?

So close to Oregon now... So close!


  1. A friend and I were just talking about Lassen Volcanic National Park--but neither of us could remember the name! I would love to take the kids there sometime!

    1. Cool, glad I could jog your memory. It's a very kid-friendly national park!

  2. What a wonderful array of wildflowers - Gorgeous!

    1. I have a bazillion more photos. It got a little out of control. :)