Lassen Peak (Northern California) 22-Jun-2015

Lassen Volcanic National Park California

We do occasional hiking and backpacking trips with our California friends Wayne and Diane and this year we decided to spend some time with them in Lassen Volcanic National Park – seemingly one of America’s lesser appreciated national parks (maybe the “volcanic” in the name is too scary?). Our previous trips had focused on climbing Lassen Peak but this time we wanted to do that but also see a bit more of the park too.  But, first, the peak…

This is the first year in several years that the trail up to Lassen Peak is fully open all the time and so we made testing it out our morning activity. The trail is basically a well-graded ramp that takes you gradually but steadily upward. It looks easy but the starting elevation (8,500 feet) and the lack of shade can surprise folks who start up it in flip-flops with a half can of warm Pepsi.

Lassen Volcanic National Park California
Starting up the Lassen Peak Trail

The weather was perfect (but got warmer and warmer as the week went on) and we had views everywhere.

Lassen Volcanic National Park California
Diller (L), Pilot Pinnacle (center), and Eagle (R) from the Lassen Peak Trail

Ever upward, with the parking lot and Helen Lake growing smaller and smaller…

Lassen Volcanic National Park California
Switchbacking up the Lassen Peak Trail

There was only one 100-foot long patch of snow left on the entire trail.

Lassen Volcanic National Park California
One last patch of snow clings to the trail

The last remaining historic “teaser” trail sign pops up shortly before the summit.

Lassen Volcanic National Park California
One of the last historic signs along the trail

Then the trail reaches the flatter, lower (false) summit with its bevy of interpretive signs,

Lassen Volcanic National Park California
Wayne and Diane reach the lower summit

but the actual summit is a rocky point further to the northeast. There are several use trails leading to it but I wonder how many people just call it a hike at the lower summit?

Lassen Volcanic National Park California
Looking across to the higher “true” summit

From the higher summit, we had a 360º view and could see Mount Shasta to the north (with the wind farm at its base), as well as smoke coming in from the Buckskin Fire in Southern Oregon. Later in the week a fire would start near Lake Tahoe and it too would send smoke into the Lassen area. As we’ve noted before, you can see Mount Shasta from many places in Northern California but Lassen Peak is usually much harder to pick-out among the surrounding peaks and (often) smoke and haze.

Lassen Volcanic National Park California
Mount Shasta from Lassen Peak

We’d gotten an “early” (8:00AM) start so we only encountered 5 people on the way up. But coming down two hours later, we passed 60 folks on their way up! The rule with Lassen seems to be hike early to avoid the rush!  And despite numerous Park Service signs about being ready for the outdoors, more than a few of these “hikers” seemingly had little or no gear (like water and sunscreen) to make their hike a little easier and safer!


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