Lassen Volcanic National Park: 7 Must-See Sights of Northern California’s Jurassic Wilderness
By Riley Cox, Lasting Adventures guide
Nestled in the mountains of Northern California lies the volcanic wonderland of Lassen Volcanic National Park, a broken landscape of alpine forest lakes and stark lava beds, steam fumaroles and bubbling mud pits lending glimpses into the raw power of our Earth’s core. Above it all the sculptors of the land—the volcanoes—loom high overhead, giving this rare nook of nature the genuine feel of a jurassic place and time.
As a lover of wilderness and a backpacking guide throughout Northern California, I understand the need to feel immersed in nature. The thrills of discovery exploring pine forests in a new land and the delight of a waterfall suddenly revealed beneath the foliage of a cliff. The marvels of LNVP are many, and to truly absorb the breadth of it all takes a trained eye, which is why I’m excited to share my knowledge with the guests of our Lassen Volcanic National Park backpacking trips and summer camps this season! Lassen has been my playground for years, and my goal is to help you experience its wonder for yourself.
To get you excited for the coming season, here are seven of my favorite sites in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Book your adventure before space fills up and let’s go explore!
Our Picks for Attractions in Lassen Volcanic National Park
1. Lassen Peak
The namesake of the national park, this peak sits at an elevation of 10,400 feet, making it one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world. This peak last erupted in 1915, and has been the latest contributor to the constantly evolving landscape. The peak was named after Peter Lassen, a gold prospector who came to the mountains in 1851.
2. Bumpass Hell
The hottest and most active hydrothermal feature in LVNP, it contains 16 acres of mud pots, boiling springs, steam vents, and fumaroles. Bumpass Hell was first discovered in the late 1800’s by a man named Kendall Vanhook Bumpass. He named it “Bumpass Hell” for good reason. On the first visit, Kendall Bumpass broke through the fragile surface of a steam geyser, plunging his leg into the deep burning steam and water, resulting in the loss of his leg. This was quite literally a Hell for Kendall Bumpass.
3. Fantastic Lava Beds
The Cinder Cone volcano sits on the eastern side of LVNP and is one of the four types of volcanoes inside the park boundaries. Cinder cone rose over 700 feet out of the ground and sprayed ash over an area of 30 square miles. In 1650 two large basaltic lava flows seeped out of the base of the volcano, devouring everything in its path, damming creeks, and creating the two lakes. Snag lake to the southeast, and Butte lake to the north. This outpouring of lava is known as the Fantastic Lava Beds, and is a premier destination for visitors to the park. (the views from the top of Cinder Cone are quite spectacular).
4. Subway Cave Lava Tube
One of the largest and most easily accessible lava tubes in the world. Located just a 2-minute walk from the parking lot off the highway. The lava tube is one-third of a mile long, and almost 30 feet wide. This attraction would be a great addition to any day hike/car camping trip in Lassen.
5. Mount Tehama
A geological wonder! Mainly because this mountain no longer exists. 600,000 years ago This volcano stood tall in its prime. At an estimated elevation of 11,000 feet and a base diameter of 15 miles (just under the size of shasta), Mt. Tehama once dwarfed all other volcanoes in this region. After millenia of eruptions, geologists propose the magma chamber ran dry, ending the volatile life of this volcano. After thousands of years of wind, water, and glacial erosion, all the remains today are portions of its left flank. These “small” secondary peaks are now the largest and most iconic features in the park, known as: Mount Brokeoff, Mt. Diller, Eagle Peak, Pilot Pinnacle, Ski Heil, and Mt. Lassen.
6. Devil’s Kitchen
One of the three largest geothermal areas in the park, Devil’s Kitchen is sparsely visited due to its location in the southeast portion of Lassen, along Hot Springs Creek. Containing the gamut of geothermal attractions, this location is made more unique by the fact that a natural river runs through it, creating colorful and dynamic contrasts between lush forests and hellish terrain. Come explore this rugged wonder with us on our Devil’s Kitchen Loop backpacking adventure!
7. Boiling Springs Lake
One of the largest boiling lakes in the world at over 500 feet wide. This magnificent lake is a cloudy greenish color that constantly bubbles and fizzes. It is surrounded by mud pots and steam vents for an overall aesthetic akin to what one might experience on Mars.