What To See In Lassen Volcanic National Park
After a day and a half at Crater Lake National Park, we headed towards Lassen Volcanic National Park. Both of these parks were high on our "to visit" list, and we were so excited to finally get to them and do some exploring this year!
We drove from Crater Lake to Redding, and spent the night in a hotel - fancy stuff, right?! We wanted a hot dinner and a hot shower, and it was our wedding anniversary, so it seemed okay to throw a hotel in the middle of our camping trip! If you're ever in Redding and in need of some hot food and cold beer, take a look at Upper Crust Pizza. They have great pizza, great local beers on tap, and are super casual and friendly!
Well rested, we awoke the next morning and ran for Lassen. We couldn't wait to see what this park had to show us. We planned to arrive, check-in at our campsite, and then drive all the way to other end of the park and work our way back. That's just what we did, and here are a few of the highlights:
Manzanita Lake Campground
Our campsite had a sign with our name on it when we arrived, but we were there pretty early, so the previous tenants were still camping. We just wanted to pop in and make sure our site was there, and that it looked like a good spot. We didn't have much option, as the park was booked for the eclipse, but we had a good enough site. It was better suited for a large RV, as the parking was basically just a wider part of the road that you parked in. Not very private or tucked in, but it ended up being a good spot for a quick night of sleep. We did enjoy an evening at the campground here, because thunderstorms moved in and cut our hiking plans a bit short in the afternoon. It was a good chance to just sit at the picnic table and rest and enjoy ourselves!
This campground is pretty large, but seems well spaced. We liked our spot for this trip, and having our site back up to the woods made it seem more private.
We drove into Lassen and just drove right through the whole place. We wanted to start at the "bottom" and work our way up. Sulphur Works is a small area just before the south visitor center. We stopped here to get our first breath of that pungent geothermal air and our first site of some boiling mud pots. Pro tip - don't get caught in the steam clouds rolling out of the puddles. They will take your breath away and burn your nose... so smelly!
Despite the stench, this place is really cool. Strange colors mark the terrain around you and mud puddles literally boil right next to the road. It's a sidewalk hike, but worth a stop to see!
Mill Creek Falls
So, we didn't really do this hike, but we had intentions to. We started it, right out from the Visitor Center. It was a nice trail in a thick forest. There is also a campground right there, just off the parking lot, that looked like it could be a cool camp spot, even thought it's right off the parking lot! They had a couple of signs up about an active bear in the area, and possibly an aggressive bear... so I got a little too scared to get a few miles into those woods. We enjoyed the little that we did hike, but headed back to the parking lot soon after we started.
Bumpass Hell was my "one thing" on this trip. Kim wanted to swim in Crater Lake and I wanted to go see Bumpass Hell. This hike is on a separate blog here. This trail is one that should definitely be hiked. It did not disappoint!
We didn't know that Chaos Jumbles existed before driving through the park. Along the park road, which is well forested and shady... we came to a large area with lots of big "gravel". It looks like a massive rock slide area, but some trees were growing out of the jumble. It was a bizarre looking area!
On our way back through the park, we pulled over to take some photos of this area. Then we discovered a sign telling us all about what we were standing in the middle of. This might be my favorite part of the park now. The towering Lassen Peak steals the show from this area, but it's a story of it's own. The Chaos Crags is a very young set of lava domes. Only 300 years or so ago, a cold rock avalanche swept through this area. It completely changed the slope of Chaos Crags, and traveled at a speed of about 100 mph, smashing a forest and blocking a creek in it's way. That formed Reflection Lake and Manzanita Lake, and left this amazing landscape in its wake.
Signs of volcanic activity are noticeable in the rocks you walk around on, although the typical black lava rock is not what you see here. There is no dirt or soil anywhere to be seen. A sparse, young forest is popping out of this rocky terrain, and really displays just how recently this massive event took place. Standing in the middle of this, I really felt like a very small person on a very big planet. The volcanic history in this park left me completely amazed of what I was playing around in.
Terrace and Shadow Lakes
This hike is a short, though steep, hike out to couple of lakes. If you feel energetic, you can reach a third lake. Kim writes about this hike in a separate post here, so I won't get into the details. It's a quiet hike, seems somewhat unknown, and will drop you right at a fresh, clear, cold lake for dipping your toes!
We took this hike early in the morning. To be honest, we miscalculated and thought it'd be a leisurely stroll of about a half mile while we sip on our coffee. The lake is bigger than it seems. We enjoyed the first hour or so of walking around the lake, enjoying the views of Lassen in the distance and some birds and ducks playing in the water. Then we got a little worried, because we didn't seem to be nearing the finish line, and the eclipse was starting soon. We rushed our way through at least the last 3rd of this trail, and arrived back at our campsite just as the eclipse was starting. We did happen to catch some good photos before time started to slip by. This would be a great hike to do at sunset, as we would imagine Lassen glows in that light - but it was also a nice wake-up stroll to get the blood flowing!
We found a cute bird on this hike, just resting on a log in the water. Then he got tired of us visiting him, and took off...
We also found a cool cairn (trail marker) in a little creek flowing off the river. The tripod and ND filter came in handy for this moment!
The Solar Eclipse
This was a lucky happenstance - we planned this trip to northern California and Oregon without even realizing that the eclipse would be happening at the same time. I am typically a bit of a space nerd and would likely geek out over this sort of event, but for some reason, I just kind of ignored that this eclipse was happening, and just hoped to catch it from wherever I happened to be. Lucky enough, I happened to be much more north than home.
We headed to Chaos Jumbles to catch the eclipse. As we were packing up our campsite, we would catch glimpses of it through our stylish solar shades. We gave a few European visitors our extra glasses, because it just seemed like everyone should be experiencing this event. As we finished packing, and the eclipse really started to make an appearance, we headed to Jumbles and had to just pull off on the side of the road. At 10:18am, everyone was looking up. Several vehicles, including construction guys, just stopped in the middle of the road and got out to look up. It was a moment, and an experience, that everyone seemed to be partaking in, and it was so cool.
The way the light changed, turned into a mid-morning sunset, and the shadows changed shapes... it was just amazing to stand there and experience it.
Lily Pond Trail & Reflection Lake
On our way out, we had a bit of extra time, so we stopped at the Loomis Museum and took this short hike. This is an interpretive trail with several sign posts and a story to follow as you hike the trail. Glimpes of Reflection Lake start the hike, and then Lily Pond shows up in the middle of the woods, just covered in water lilies. As the hike winds back to the visitor center, the terrain turned rocky and we realized we were walking on more of the Chaos Jumbles land. That avalanche covered a large swath of land!