Of Fire and Ice ~ Lassen Volcanic National Park

Advice from a Volcano: “Stay active; keep your inner fire burning; it’s ok to let off steam; go with the flow; be uplifting; it’s all a matter of time; have a blast!” ~ Ilan Shamir

After living in Yellowstone National Park for two years, I became fascinated with the powerful forces of nature at work below the Earth’s surface, so it was not surprising that I was drawn to the “lava-strewn” landscape of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lassen Peak with Manzanita Lake in the foreground

All rocks found in this park originated from volcanoes and all four types of volcanoes can be found here: shield, cinder cone, composite, and plug dome.   The main peak in the park is 10,463’ Lassen Peak, a plug dome volcano, formed when lava is too thick to flow a great distance so rises directly over the vent to form a dome.   She is a beauty and can be seen from many vantage points throughout the park.

May 22, 2015 marked the centennial of the Lassen Peak eruption, a cataclysmic event that blew a cloud of ash almost six miles into the atmosphere. Volcanic ash rained down over 200 miles to the east and boulders weighing as much as 300 tons were carried five miles from the peak. This explosion set the stage for establishing Lassen Volcanic National Park in August 1916.

Seismologists continue to study volcanic activity within the park. Earthscope, a plate boundary observatory station, is part of a network of over 875 stations installed across the western U.S. to study movement of the Earth’s crust.

Lassen Peak viewed from Devastated Area

We stayed at Manzanita Lake in the northwestern part of the park, the only open campground when we arrived on Memorial Day. Lassen is one of the lesser-visited National Parks, possibly because it is a bit “off the beaten path”. With so much beauty and so much to offer, we found ourselves wishing for more time. A return trip is in order, as we felt we had only scratched the surface in 4 days.

Here is what we were able to squeeze into our short visit:

1) Manzanita Lake Trail – a tranquil 2-mile trail that is a must at sunset. Go at various times of the day and you will find something new at each visit.

2) Manzanita Creek Trail – a 7-mile obstacle course of fallen logs across the trail, caused by a severe windstorm earlier in the year. This was a ranger recommendation but the only positive for us was that it could be done from the campground.

Manzanita Creek Trail strewn with downed trees
Manzanita Creek Trail strewn with downed trees

3) Summit Lake Trail – The entire trail is an ~ 11-mile loop, with lots of crystal blue lakes. We did 7.5 miles to Lower Twin Lake, which brought us past four of them. We would have liked to complete the entire loop but Terry had taken a nasty fall a few nights before and did a fine job bruising his ribs. It seems climbing over downed logs on the trail wasn’t helping them much. 😉 Needless to say I had to hike on my own for the rest of our stay in Lassen.

Summit Lake
Summit Lake

4) Kings Creek Falls Trail – a 3-mile trail down to a large waterfall. The foot trail was closed due to poor trail conditions so partway into the hike you were diverted to the horse trail, a steep rocky descent down to the falls. This hike had great views of Lassen Peak and the falls were quite lovely.

Kings Creek Falls
Kings Creek Falls

5) Road Trip – We drove the winding 30-mile main park road from north to south…gorgeous!

A few items on our list that will have to wait for another visit:

  •  Lassen Peak Trail – closed due to snow
  • Bumpass Hell Trail – closed due to snow
  • Cinder Cone – a hike to the top of a dormant volcano
  • Devil’s Kitchen – lots of geothermal activity in this area
  • Mills Creek Falls – tallest waterfall in the park
  • 185-mile scenic drive beginning in the town of Chester, meandering through forests, geothermal springs, craggy peaks, and lava fields of Lassen National Forest and Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lassen Volcanic National Park has a quiet calm to it when you gaze upon its stately pines, jagged peaks still swaddled in deep blankets of snow, and crystal lakes. Yet far below the surface a fire still burns, evidenced by the hissing steam vents, bubbling mudpots and boiling springs dotting the landscape, symbols of nature’s powerful forces and diverse beauty.

55 thoughts on “Of Fire and Ice ~ Lassen Volcanic National Park

  • What a gorgeous header photo!

    That Manzanita Creek Trail looks like a real challenge. The waterfalls is awesome. What a gorgeous part of the country you are in.

    We hope Terry is feeling much better very soon.

    • Thanks Marsha! This is a beautiful park. Too bad it is not visited more often. Terry is on the mend, but with ribs it might take awhile.

    • I think this park would be better visited in the fall but it was nice to not have the crowds on the trails. Terry is slowly mending and he learned yesterday that it is probably just some badly bruised ribs, which is good to know.

  • Sorry to hear about Terry’s fall. I guess it is the men’s turn for tripping (see our recent post). Hope he is all right. Bruised ribs take so long to heal. Hang in there Terry!

    Gee, maybe we can do a return trip to Lassen together since our trip was only one day because of three wildfires and you had injury and snow!!!

    Lassen Peak looks beautiful all covered in snow. Looks like you managed some awesome hikes despite the conditions. The lakes and waterfall are spectacular! I love you new header:)

    • We would love to come back to Lassen in the fall. There is so much more to see than time or weather allowed. Terry is on the mend but ribs do take some time. He is lucky because he fell in the middle of the night in the truck camper. It could have been much worse. Our Mr. Buddy heater didn’t fair so well either, as that is what Terry hit with his ribs. The grate is smooshed and Terry had the markings of it on his ribs. 😦

  • We really enjoyed our stay near Lake Almanor last year at this time. We loved, loved, loved Devil’s Kitchen and Boilng Springs Lake (same trail head). It’s such a beuatiful area!

    • I read your post on Lassen and really wished we had time to visit Devil’s Kitchen and Boiling Springs. Something to look forward to! Watch out for those snakes. We have seen 3 rattlers since we hit the road the first of May.

  • LuAnn these are some breathtaking photos! I appreciate reading about the history as well as the gorgeous images. all that hiking makes me think I need a nap just from reading!

  • Beautiful writing, beautiful photography, stunning landscape, I SO enjoy reading your blog. You’ve made me realise that one day I absolutely have to take a year out and travel that magnificent country properly as you do

  • LuAnn, the header is an excellent reflection shot! And that first photo with a swirling cloud is also beautiful!
    We were literally just a few hours of Lassen where we used to live and yet never visited this area. With your long list of trails to cover this ought to be on our list of stop next year. Glad you took us there.
    Hope Terry is now on the mend and ready to hike more.

    • This park was a nice little discovery MonaLiza, one we want to come back and explore more. We would love to hike Lassen Peak someday.

  • Because of your willingness and agility, I am able to enjoy the beauty of the out of the way places I will never get to. Hope those bruised ribs heal well and soon.

  • Terry seems most accident prone, are you sure you’re not pushing him over? hehe. Volcanoes are amazing, endlessly fascinating but I couldn’t help but feel my mortality when I was that close to Yellowstone, which I kept referring to as Jellystone…thanks Yogi Bear.

    Travelling with you is always a wonderful experience and Lassen Peak with those clouds…fantastic.

    • Terry does seem to be accident prone as of late. Wonder what’s up with that? 😉 I felt the same way when we lived in Yellowstone and the park was experiencing roughly 200 small earthquakes daily. Those who had been there for years were not phased but it was a bit disconcerting for us.

      • Having watched many of those end of the world films, the mind does start to go to epically destructive places, if something like that really happened i would wonder why I wasn’t sat down in a darkened room watching it.

  • Ooooo, that fall sounds very unpleasant, not to mention embarrassing! Ribs are always painful, so sorry. Lassen is definitely on “our list” and your post just whetted our appetite, thanks!

  • I didn’t realize there are so many great hiking opportunities in Lassen! We definitely need to spend some time there. The Kings Creek Falls trail looks especially beautiful. Not so sure about the Manzanita Creek trail, though. The ranger must not have hiked it recently! So happy that Terry is healing from his fall. And soooo happy that you guys are here in Ashland. 🙂 Love your header photo with the reflections in the water.

    • Thanks Laurel. There is much hiking to be done in Lassen and I think probably best to go in the fall. We are so excited to be in Ashland!

  • A breathtaking gallery LuAnn, especially the header image! And your words do them full justice. I wish I can experience this for myself. Thank you for sharing the beauty.

  • I forgot about this area. Adding it to my Bucket List. Sorry to hear about Terry, those rib injuries are slow to heal and taunt us (at least me) the rest of our lives.

    • It is a great place to explore. This is the second time for a rib injury for Terry so hopefully he knows to take it easy for awhile.

  • Sorry to hear about Terry… Bruised ribs are not fun. Wrapping them tightly may help. This park looks magnificent… Your photos show that. I love the new header!

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