Imagine cool mountain lakes, lava rock, steaming mud pots, stinking sulfur vents, and the world’s largest plug-dome volcano--all in one place.
That place would be Lassen Peak, which rises 2,000 feet above its surroundings (putting it 10,457 feet above sea level). The 2.5-mile Lassen Peak Trail makes its way to the summit, rising steadily with about 40 switchbacks. To say that Lassen is a study in contrasts is putting it mildly. A cool green sea of conifer forest surrounds 106,000 acres of smoking, steaming, blurping, black, treeless terrain. It’s like stepping onto another planet, Mars maybe, but the truth is it’s one of our country’s most fascinating displays of the earth’s fiery core at work.
The altitude makes it a test for the lungs, but there is no technical climbing and the view of the Mars-scape from the summit is a life-changing one. You should allow 5 hours for the round-trip hike, and it’s certainly doable for older kids (10 and up), who may not fully appreciate the view but will love throwing snowballs near the summit in midsummer.
Before coming, check the web site for road conditions. State 89 is the road through the park, and though you can usually drive through from June to October, snow can keep the road closed as late as mid-July.