Lassen Volcanic N. P. Trip Report

Old Feb 1st, 2018, 10:49 PM
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Lassen Volcanic N. P. Trip Report

It's been over five months since our trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park in late August, and I've been meaning to post a trip report ever since; Iím sorry itís taken so long. Thanks to those who gave advice when I was planning this trip, it was very helpful.

This is a beautiful park with stunning scenery, but not overly crowded, and Iím so glad we went. We spent two full days in the area, but could easily have spent three or more.

We stayed at the Lassen Mineral Lodge in Mineral. We stayed there because it was the closest accommodation to the south entrance, and it had a restaurant. We thought this was a fine choice for us, since we were only there basically to sleep, but it was by no stretch a luxury accommodation. It was in serious need of some maintenance and sprucing up, but was reasonably clean and the bed was fairly comfortable - and it was very inexpensive, so that was a plus. We thought the restaurant was pretty good, with a decent menu selection and friendly servers. It has an outdoor patio, so thatís where we had most of our meals, and that was pleasant. The background music was an odd combination of some old-timey piano and some Celtic music- on an endless loop - but that had its own odd charm, and was a nice change from the loud pop music you hear in many places. They have wifi in the restaurant, but not the rooms, but itís slow. Fortunately, there was a strong cell signal there for us, so we just used our phones as wi-fi hot spots to check email, the weather and news, and to post photos to Facebook. At breakfast we were able to order sandwiches to take with us for a picnic in the park each day, and they were very good.

We were visiting our sons and their families in San Francisco, and took a few days break to go to Lassen. We drove up on August 22, about a four hour drive from SF, expecting to arrive mid afternoon. Unfortunately, we discovered that our route from Red Bluff to Mineral on Highway 36, had a section about 15 miles long that was being completely reconstructed, and so we had a delay of about an hour getting through that - about a 40 minute wait where the flag person stopped us, then another 20 or so minute journey following a pilot vehicle at about 10 mph over dirt and gravel roads under construction (and repeated this scenario going the other way two days later). Itís quite an ambitious rebuilding and widening of the highway.

By the time we arrived, checked in, and got settled, we thought it was too late to try to do any sightseeing, especially as rainstorms were threatening. We decided to go to an early supper, and had a leisurely meal on the patio - the rain skirted around us, and we were treated to beautiful double rainbow, which we took as a good omen.

Due to the heavy snowfall this year, the road through the park had only just opened the week before we arrived - almost two months later than normal. We were very fortunate that the trail to Bumpass Hell opened the day we arrived - I spoke with some women at the restaurant who werenít able to hike there the day before because the trail was still closed.

The next morning we had a nice breakfast at the restaurant, and headed off to explore the park. Our first stop was the visitors center where we watched a good short film that gives an overview of the history and geology of the park. They have some good exhibits there, and what looked like a nice cafeteria where we could have had lunch, but we already had our sandwiches for our picnic. You can pick up sandwiches to go there, too. At the shop there I picked up a useful small book that gives all of the highlights and history of every point of interest along the road through the park - a very useful purchase.

We spent a good amount of time driving along the park road, stopping at pretty much every spot with a good view or point of interest (such as the sulphur works) to take pictures - weíre avid photographers. We made it as far as the picnic area overlooking Lake Helen, a very scenic spot, where we had a late lunch. After that we backtracked a short way to the parking area for the Bumpass Hell Trailhead. We hiked out to the Bumpass Hell geothermal area, about three miles round trip. It was quite a lovely hike through forest and open areas with great views of the surrounding mountains, and the thermal area was quite interesting. Not quite as spectacular as a lot of what is at Yellowstone, but very worthwhile, nonetheless. While itís generally a fairly easy hike over mostly level terrain, except for the descent (and returning ascent ) of 100 feet into the thermal basin, the altitude of over 8,000 feet made it more challenging, especially since we hadnít had time to adjust to the high altitude. Hiking back uphill on the return, I had to stop often to catch my breath, but once we made it back to level ground it was easier. We really enjoyed this hike. By the time we got back to our car it was getting late, so we drove back to our hotel, enjoying the late afternoon light on the mountains. We made it back just before sunset. We showered, had a pleasant dinner on the patio, and went to bed early because we were pretty tired after that high altitude hike!

The next day we drove back on the road through the park again - I think I could make that drive many times without getting bored of it! We stopped at all of the points of interest along the way we hadnít seen the day before, and ate our sandwiches at a picnic table next to Manzanita Lake. We went into the small museum there, too, which was quite interesting, and didnít take very long to see. Then we drove up to Burney Falls State Park to see the Falls - definitely worthwhile! Such a beautiful place, and gorgeous waterfall - we admired it from the top and bottom, and walked a ways along the riverís edge.

On our way back we stopped at the Subway Cave and Lava Tube - pretty interesting. Unfortunately, the batteries in my flashlight died shortly after entering the cave, so we didnít venture far, not wanting to risk being in the pitch dark with only one working flashlight. Still, it was enough to give us a good sense of the whole cave.

After that, we drove back through the park again, enjoying that amazing mountain scenery one last time, getting back to the motel just in time to clean up and have dinner before the restaurant would have stopped serving. The next morning we checked out after breakfast and drove around to see a bit of the area around Mineral before heading back to San Francisco. We really enjoyed our time at Lassen, and highly recommend a visit when the road through the park is open.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2018, 10:22 AM
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Nice report -- Lassen is almost never crowded and it is such an interesting park. Burney Falls is one of my favorite places anywhere.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2018, 01:50 PM
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Sounds like a nice trip. Did you post pictures anywhere public?
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