HIGHWAY 5 NORTH
●LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK AND AREA
From Red Bluff, take Highway 36 east; or from Redding, take Highway 44 east.
image copyright B.F. Loomis, courtesy of Poimiroo & Partners
Considered to be an active volcano that is now dormant, imposing 10,457-foot Lassen Peak last erupted in 1915. (It is one of only two active volcanoes on the U.S. mainland. The other is Mt. St. Helens in Washington state, which last erupted in 1980. A curious fact is that they both erupted in the month of May.) It is thought to be the largest plug dome volcano in the world.
The best time to visit is July through September, when the 30-mile road through the park is least likely to be closed by snow (it climbs to 8,511 feet). Visitors can take several self-guided nature walks and attend campfire talks in summer. Children age 7 through 12 can participate in the Junior Ranger program, and those age 4 through 6 can participate in the Chipmunk Club (contact the Loomis Museum for information). In winter, ranger-led snowshoe walks are scheduled.
Boardwalks supplement the trail through popular Bumpass Hell (it is named after its discoverer Kendall Bumpass, who severely burned his leg when he fell into a boiling mud pot), which is the largest geothermal feature in the park and sports geological oddities such as boiling springs and mud pots, pyrite pools, and noisy fumaroles. The trail covers 3 miles and takes 2 or 3 hours round trip to walk. The park also offers more than 150 miles of backcountry trails, including a 17-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail.
The park’s Loomis Museum, which is located inside a lovely old stone building at Manzanita Lake, has an orientation video and exhibits dramatic photos of the 1915 eruption.
A free park newsletter/map orients visitors and lists daily activities. Campsites are available.
Park admission is $10 per vehicle.