Lassen Volcanic National Park: Bumpass Hell & Mt. Lassen Hike

Exploring the beloved National Parks is our way of celebrating July 4th in the US. We visited Rocky Mountain National Park in 2011, Yellowstone National Park in 2012, Yosemite National Park in 2013, Mesa Verde National Park in 2014. Yellowstone National Park is our absolute favorite so far and we have plans to go back there again. Meanwhile, I have heard about an under-appreciated National Park in California called Lassen Volcanic National Park, sometimes referred to as mini-yellowstone. So, we decided to explore the Park, appreciate its beauty and share it with you all.

The top attraction in the Park is Bumpass Hell which is the largest hydrothermal area in the park. It can be accessed by a 3-mile round-trip trail and is the only place in the entire Park that is crowded apart from the campgrounds, which I will come to later. Bumpass Hell, named after an early settler who severely burned a leg after falling into a boiling pool, has hot springs, fumaroles (an opening in earth's crust, often in the neighborhood of volcanoes, which emits steam and gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen sulfide), and boiling mud pots. The acidic gas emissions, their reactions with the rocks, deposits of sulfur, iron pyrite (also known as fool's gold), quartz and other substances around the springs and in their runoff channels are fascinating, even if you have seen them before. 

Bumpass Hell, the largest hydrothermal area in the Park
The boardwalk in the area allows you to get up, close and personal with these extraordinary phenomena though you could severely burn yourself if you got too close, and not even left with the solace of the area being named after you, as Mr. Bumpass took that honor away. 

Mineral Water (Err...not what you are thinking)
Now, if you have come to Lassen Volcanic National Park, you must visit Mt. Lassen, right? Well, don't worry, at an elevation of nearly 10,500 ft, it is hard to miss. Did you know that Mt. Lassen and Mount St. Helens were the only two volcanoes in the contiguous United States to erupt during the 20th century? Given its history, nice weather, and that a 5-mile round trip hike with a 2,000 ft elevation gain would get you to the top of the mountain and back, we chose to do this hike. We enjoyed the hike, the views, the cool breeze and it took us less than 3 hours including the time at the top. A good hike, it was!

View from the trail head

On the way to the top
View from the top
Now that you have seen Bumpass Hell and Lassen Peak, let me show you the one spot in the Park which we kept returning to - Kings Creek Upper Meadow. My husband loves lush meadows, especially when they are surrounded by mountains. In our trip to Yosemite NP, we spent a lot of time at Toulomne Meadows and we were glad to find a similar spot in this Park as well. 
Mt. Lassen, meadow and Us

View from above

We spent time during the day and returned to the same spot during sunset to enjoy eating our watermelon with our favorite view. And we were lucky to witness some beautiful colors in the sky and capture Mt. Lassen in all its glory.

As we were settling down to eat our watermelon...

Beautiful colors began to dance in the sky

And my husband captured this beautiful pic of Mt. Lassen
It would be amiss not to mention lakes when we talk about Lassen Volcanic NP. And there are several of them, large and small, blue and green all across the Park. In fact, most of the campgrounds in the Park are situated near the lakes. And the beautiful Emerald Lake was our lunch spot in the Park. 

Ain't that a gorgeous lunch spot?
All these attractions and more can be accessed via Lassen Volcanic National Highway (the portion of Highway 89 which extends through the park, 30 miles). But there is more to this Park than that can be accessed via this Highway and most people who visit this Park don't explore those parts. And when we did, we came across less than a dozen people on the trails in a National Park in California on a July 4th long weekend. If you have seen the crowds in Yosemite NP, you will know what I mean :)

You can read about the beautiful and peaceful Warner Valley here.


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