Lassen Volcanic National Park is pretty small compared to other national parks, but it still offers a lot to see and do. I think under normal circumstances it is not a very busy park, but we were there on Labor Day weekend and the place was a total zoo. It actually made it a little hard to enjoy, unfortunately. But we made the most of it.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in Northern California pretty deep in the wilderness. As you can probably guess from the name, the park’s main attraction is a volcano! Lassen Peak is one of the biggest plug dome volcanoes in the word. It had a very large eruption in 1915 that caused quite a bit of devastation to the area and created the unique landscape you see in the park today. The volcano last erupted in 1921, but it is still considered and active volcano because it will erupt again at some point. It’s just a matter of time.
Like I mentioned before, we were there on Labor Day weekend and the place was a madhouse. Traffic was pretty much bumper to bumper and parking was nearly impossible. The main road that goes from the north entrance to the south entrance was lined with cars along one side because the parking lots had run out of room. This was a bit frustrating because we didn’t really get to see everything we wanted to. Sadly, we only had one afternoon to explore Lassen, so fighting off the crowds and having to park miles away from the sites we wanted to see just wasn’t going to work for us.
Our first stop was at the Devastated Area. This is a short trail that is wheel chair accessible and had different stops along the way with audio displays that explain the history of the park. There are photos of the 1915 eruption and there are different types of volcanic rocks on display that you can touch. There is also a really good view of Lassen Peak in the distance.
You can see that it’s pretty much baron. A few trees and a little bit of grass poking through, but basically just dry dirt. When you think about how it’s been 100 years since the eruption and that’s all the foliage that has grown back, that really shows how much destruction the volcano caused.
Our next stop was to Bumpass Hell. This is one of the more popular trails in the park and boy was it crowded. We got lucky though and as we were driving around the parking lot looking for a spot, a car was backing out and leaving so we took that spot before anyone else could get it.
The trail starts out going up a mountain right along the edge of it. The trail is very narrow and there are people going in both directions so it can be a little tricky to maneuver at times, especially on such a crowded day. I began to get frustrated because I wanted to stop and enjoy the view because it was absolutely breathtaking. There was no room to step to the side and let people pass though. I literally felt like I was a cow be herded back into the barn. I did quickly snap this one, but there’s a tree in the way so it’s not great.
After you make it up the mountain you keep going for a little bit until you get to Bumpass Hell, which is a hot spring and geyser area. There is a wooden boardwalk that goes around the area, very similar to what we had seen at Yellowstone.
We continued down the road and stopped next at Sulphur works. This is another hot spring area that consists mostly of boiling mud pots and as the name suggests, smells like Sulphur.
The southern part of the park is mainly about the geothermal aspects of the park. It was interesting, but maybe because we had just been to Yellowstone a week before, it didn’t seem that impressive. Yellowstone was much bigger and had larger hot springs and geysers, but I’m sure if I had been to Lassen before Yellowstone, I would have thought Lassen’s hot springs were amazing.
I really wanted to get to the northern part of Lassen to check out Manzanita Lake, but that section of the park was just swarming with people and we didn’t feel like dealing with it at the time because we were on a tight schedule. It looks like it is absolutely beautiful though. I would really like to go back to Lassen someday, just not on a holiday weekend! I like my nature to be sparsely populated with people, and this was a little too much for me to handle.
Have you guys been to Lassen Volcanic National Park? What did you think of it?