Monday, September 9, 2013

Lassen Volcanic's southwest entrance: visitor center and trailheads

Most first-time visitors to Lassen Volcanic—the high-elevation Lassen Volcanic National Park—explore this wild and expansive terrain of hydrothermal activity, forests, lakes and waterfalls via the Lassen Park Road. This section of California Highway 89 is winding through the park from its northwest entrance near Highway 44 to the southwest entrance—or vice versa if you are going-north oriented. Other entrances for motorized traffic exist; for example, from Chester via Warner Valley to the Drakesbad Guest Ranch, from Chester to Juniper Lake, and from Highway 44 near the park's northeast corner to Butte Lake and the cinder cone area.

Next to the southwest-corner entrance station is the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Centeropen year-round (details on its Geotourism page):

Summer: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; winter: 9 a.m. to 5. p.m. | Park admission: $10.
The visitor center, being the remodeled Lassen Ski Chalet, is a sustainably designed building including a cafeteria, a book and postcard store and a museum. The latter introduces visitors to the park history, its biodiversity and the multitude of geologically interesting features—some of them dispersed throughout the parkland and in “continuous operation,” offering hands-on or nose-on experiences. The museum illustrates the four different volcano types, for all of which examples can be found within Lassen's geological wonderland, including Lassen Peak—the snow mountain (Kohm Yah-mah-nee) and plug dome volcano.

According to the provided handout map, Lassen Volcanic has 150 miles of park trails including 17 miles of Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Brittle-ground hydrothermal areas such as Sulphur Works and Bumpass Hell feature handrail-lined boardwalks. The interpreted Sulphur Works area and the Ridge Lakes trailhead are located about one miles north of the visitor center. From the center itself, you may want to hike to Mill Creek Falls along a trail that continues to Crumbaugh Lake and Cold Boiling Lake, from where you will find trail connections to Bumpass Hell and Kings Creek. There are trails coming in and leading out of the park (the PCT, for instance). An astonishing web of trails connects must-see landmarks and remote places: a dream-come-true trail paradise that for sure is inspiring advocates and developers of other preserves and open-space landscapes—and that offers urbanites hours of recreation and relaxation.

The Lassen Volcanic trail network invites hikers and backpackers to explore the volcanic wonderland via day-walks, long-distance hikes and individually planned loop routes. All trailheads along the park highway, which can get busy on summer holiday weekends, are well marked and accessorized with interpretive panels explaining local highlights and history. 

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