Lassen Volcanic National Park


©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Lassen Volcanic National Park is at the southern end of the Cascade Mountains. See more national park pictures.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

PO Box 100

Mineral, CA 96063

530-595-4444

www.nps.gov/lavo

At Lassen Volcanic National Park, located in northeastern California about 50 miles east of Redding, visitors will find a landscape still recovering from volcanic devastation that took place more than 90 years ago. The park contains picturesque cinder cones, chaotic rock formations, and boiling hot springs alongside serene lakes and a wilderness landscape that's more typical of northern California.

Entrance fees: $10/vehicle for seven days or $5/individual for seven days

Visitor centers: Headquarters Information Desk is open Monday-Friday year-round; daily from late June to early September. Loomis Museum, Information, and Bookstore is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from late May to late September; daily from late June to early September.

Other services: A museum, information booth, guest ranch, and nine campgrounds

Accommodations: Several campgrounds are available from late spring through early fall (until they are closed by snow). Some reservations are available at 877-444-6777. Drakesbad Guest Ranch (530-529-1512) is open from early June through early October.

Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

Volcanism displays its spectacular and destructive artistry in this vast panorama of devastated landscape. Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California is evidence of the incredible violence that occurs below the surface of our planet. The last eruptions here took place early in this century, but Lassen still has an otherworldly terrain of broken mountains, scorched land, bubbling mud pots, and hissing steam.

In 1914, Lassen Peak, about one hour east of Redding, California, began a period of sustained eruptions that continued for seven years. Eventually more than 106,372 acres of this decimated landscape were designated as the Lassen Volcanic National Park. Some of the landscape is still geologically active, with boiling water, hot streams, fumaroles, sulfur vents, and steam holes.

Lassen is at the southern end of the Cascade Mountains, which contain other volcanic peaks, such as Mount Rainier, Mount Shasta, and Mount St. Helens. This national park is a churned-up landscape of stark features that have been given such descriptive names as Chaos Crags and Chaos Jumbles. At one spot, intriguingly called Bumpass Hell, powerful-smelling vapors drift over boiling hot springs with golden flakes floating on their surface. The flakes are crystals of iron pyrite, or fool's gold, that have been carried along by superheated steam.

Lassen Peak itself is a craggy massif that rises to the considerable height of 10,457 feet. Much of the park presents a familiar northern California scene -- aspen, firs, pines, willows, alders, poplar, shrubs, and wildflowers. Resident fauna ranges from black-tailed deer to mountain lions. Yet throughout the park, cinder crags and magma canyons continue to offer proof of former violence, while gurgling thermal features suggest the possibility of a fiery future.

As is also true of a large portion of northern California, the park is covered with deep snow for much of the year, which has had the effect of producing several beautiful lakes.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a favorite with snowshoers and cross-country skiers. Many hikers first encounter this park on their trek down the Pacific Coast Trail, which passes through the park's wilderness backcountry. On the next page, learn more about the activities and points of interest at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Sightseeing at Lassen Volcanic National Park

©2006 National Park Services Bumpass Hell is a mile-wide valley where thermal activity fills the air with sulfurous steam. The pools there can be as hot as 196 degrees Fahrenheit.

Visitors to Lassen Volcanic National Park amble through dense sulfur fumes to see thick, gurgling clay tinted pastel colors with minerals from far below the earth's surface. The centerpiece of the park is Lassen Peak, a volcano that erupted more than 150 times over a one-year period beginning in 1914. The peak was once part of a much larger volcano called Mount Tehama. 

Today, Lassen is a 10,457-foot-high pile of gray volcanic rock that is covered by snow much of the year. The mountain is so barren of life that it has been called a "vertical desert," but watchful hikers on the trail to its summit may very well encounter a ground squirrel or a swarm of tortoiseshell butterflies.

The park is a natural laboratory that spectacularly displays the effects of past volcanic action as well as the ongoing turmoil beneath the earth's surface. Throughout the park, cinder crags and magma canyons offer proof of former violence, while gurgling fumaroles and sulphur fumes suggest the possibility of a fiery future.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Photo Opportunities

The strange terrain left behind by devastating volcanic activity is perfect for landscape photographers. Here are some of the best photo opportunities:

  • Lassen Peak: This volcano erupted violently in 1915, dramatically altering the landscape of the park. It has been dormant in more recent years.
  • Devastated Area: Vegetation is slowly reclaiming the Devastated Area, which is still dotted with scorched trees.
  • Cinder Cone: The Cinder Cone was formed from the multicolored ash and lava cinders of countless eruptions, the most recent in 1851.
  • Bumpass Hell: Sulfurous fumes fill the air above the boiling hot springs at Bumpass Hell.

The Volcanic Geology of Lassen VolcanicIn one spot in the park, appropriately called the Devastated Area, scorched and fallen trees dot the landscape amid such signs of renewal as saplings, grass, and stubborn new bushes.

The Cinder Cone, a nearly cylindrical mountain of lava, rises ominously above the pine forest. The cone formed as it emitted lava and ash that then fell back onto its slopes as multicolored cinders. The crater at the top of the Cinder Cone dates to its most recent eruption in 1851. That display of natural fireworks was seen more than 100 miles away. 

Manzanita Lake also adds to the drama of the park's furious landscape. Geologists believe that the lake was formed when a volcanic dome suddenly collapsed, possibly the result of an earthquake. Riding a gigantic cushion of trapped air, millions of tons of rock and debris flew across about two miles of flat terrain. The horizontal landslide was stopped by a mountain, where it blocked a creek to form the lake.

The unusual sights in Lassen Volcanic National Park were formed by devastating and fiery volcanic forces. On the next page, learn more about how this region was formed.

History: How Lassen Peak Was Formed

©2006 National Park Services Here's Lassen Peak reflected in the clear water of Manzanita Lake. The serene atmosphere belies the volcano's recent history of violent eruptions.

Battle-scarred Lassen Peak was once part of a much larger mountain called Mount Tehama that began 600,000 years ago as molten rock, called magma, which flowed upwards from the depths of the earth. Slowly, over the years, the magma formed a mountain estimated to be about 11,000 feet high with a base more than 11 miles wide and. Eventually the great volcano collapsed, giving birth to smaller mountains around its rim. Lassen Peak is one of these mountains. 

In the mid-19th century, when the first settlers came to California, the area around the peak was dotted with bubbling springs and vents spewing steam. But the peak itself appeared calm. The newcomers assumed the volcano was extinct. 

In May of 1914, the peak showed signs of life, pouring forth enormous columns of steam and gases from its top. Lassen erupted more than 150 times during the next year. Finally, in May of 1915, the mountaintop exploded. Lava poured down the slopes, and a blast of ash and gas shot out of the volcano, rising 30,000 feet in the air and devastating a three-square-mile area.

Since then, except for a small eruption in 1921, the volcano has remained dormant. Until Mount St. Helens exploded in 1980, Lassen was the last volcano to erupt in the lower 48 states. Scientists are now studying the devastated landscape around Lassen to see how long it is likely to take for the barren slopes of Mount St. Helens to recover.

Lassen Volcanic National Park shows visitors both what a volcanic eruption can do to the surrounding landscape and how that landscape recovers over time. In the century since Lassen Peak's last eruption, the park has begun to return to its natural state, as visitors to the park can see for themselves.

© Publications International, Ltd.

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