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The Famous Fumaroles of Lassen Volcanic National Park

The last stop of my Portland to Oakland road trip with Lizzie was Lassen Volcanic National Park. I hadn't heard about this park until I started researching my trip, which makes sense as it is located in a pretty rural part of far northeast California.

The park's focus is the 10,457-foot Lassen Peak. This lava dome is the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range, and it's one of the largest lava domes in the world.

What is a lava dome?

A lava dome forms from an erupting volcano whose lava is too viscous. Rather than flow away from the volcano, it moreso oozes and hardens in place. This ultimately leads to the volcano having a dome shape rather than the more typical peak.

How can you see Lassen Peak?

One cool part of Lassen Volcanic National Park is that the mountain is very accessible. You can drive around the park via the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway (California Route 89), which climbs nearly 2,000 feet up the mountainside. The summit parking lot (confusingly near Lake Helen, not Summit Lake) is under 2,000 feet from the peak, and the hike is a strenuous 5 miles, round-trip.

We did stop at Summit Lake (left) also: it is a very serene campsite near the peak. I always love finding the most delicate and charming wildflowers, and the water was really nice. Lake Helen (right) was a great blue color, similar to many of my previous views this summer. It was also interesting to see snow after we had driven through 110-degree weather the day before.

What is the Bumpass Hell Trail?

Because the summit of Lassen Peak is pretty rocky and lacks vegetation, we opted for a different hike with more to see. We stopped at a place called Bumpass Hell, which is the volcano's main hydrothermal area. We hiked about a mile to the basin overlook, from which you can easily see the fumaroles and very easily smell the sulfur in the air.

The views were great all along the trail. We considered hiking down into the basin, but that part is the steepest and the smelliest! It also started raining, so we decided to head back. You can see the rain coming down in the distance, which I always think is cool to capture in a photo.

What is there to see in Lassen Volcanic National Park?

Lassen is home to some great wildlife. We saw deer, possibly elk, a lot of chipmunks and squirrels, some interesting birds, and more. One of my favorite parts was the colors. You can see the turquoise water in the thermal area, and the golden yellow soil. This one spot had suffered a landslide (part of the bridge had collapsed! and the road was single lane) and I love the contrast of the dark green trees holding on by half-exposed roots.


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