Lassen NP day hikes (August 24/25)

Posted on September 16, 2016 by Chris Lumens in , , , .

After our backpacking trip, we spent the next five days doing much easier day hikes in and around Lassen NP. Sometimes all four of us went, and sometimes it was just one or two people. We saw a variety of things - waterfalls, summits, thermal features, and lava tubes. This post describes the first two days worth of activities.

As a reminder, all posts related to this trip can be read on the Lassen tag page.

Burney Falls (August 24)

For the first day after backpacking, we wanted to keep it really easy. No one was in a mood to get up very early, several of us were sore, and Sarah’s feet were blistered and bandaged up. So we decided to take the drive up to McArthur-Burney Falls State Park to see the falls and walk around a little bit. We got moving a little late and it was a long drive, so we had lunch on the way and got to the park after noon.

Right out of the parking lot, there was an overlook on the falls.

I spent a few minutes there trying to take pictures, but it was really busy so I didn’t want to stand by the railing for too long. We decided it’d be nice to hike the one mile loop trail that went down to the river, then along it, back up, and around the other side. We set off down the paved trail with a whole lot of other people. Along the way, there were a couple nice viewpoints but the best one was from the bottom.

One really interesting thing about Burney Falls was how much water flowed out of the cliffs beside the falls. Signs along the way explained this was where two types of rock met and the water was actually the water table coming out from between the two. It was probably at least half the water coming over the falls.

The trail along the river was nice if unremarkable. We hiked out to a bridge where we met some guys who were riding their motorcycles around California. They took one of the very few group pictures we have from this trip.

We then climbed up to the other side of the canyon and hiked along the other edge for a while. We walked past the falls (which you could hear but couldn’t see very well), past a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, over a bridge, and back to the parking lot. After spending a little time in the visitors center, we headed out.

On our way back to Redding, we tried to go to Shasta Caverns but we got there just after the last tour left. Lon, Linda, and Sarah made plans to come back later in the week but I didn’t go with them because I wanted to get another SOTA activation done in the park.

Lassen Peak (August 25)

The next day, Lon and I wanted to hike Lassen Peak. It’s a really impressive looking summit with an easy trail up it, in addition to being on a ton of lists. It’s ultra prominent, a county high point, and activatable for SOTA. From our all our previous days in the park driving around this mountain, I was pretty excited for it. While we were hiking, Sarah and Linda were going to sleep in and get breakfast. We were going to meet them in the park later for yet more hiking.

When we got to the trailhead, the parking lot was pretty empty and the weather was perfect. Because we were going to be up so high today, we made sure to put on a lot of sunscreen. The sun was intense enough on our backpacking trip - it’d be even worse s couple thousand feet higher.

We planned more than two hours to hike the 2.5 miles up based on the altitude and previous hiking. We didn’t need anywhere close to that, though. The trail was well-graded and pretty low angle from the start almost all the way to the summit, and altitude was never really a factor.

The trail wound its way back and forth to gain a prominent ridge. We passed through a couple stands of trees but those very quickly got very small and then disappeared altogether. We got some great views of the mountains to the southwest and to the lake below where we’d later meet Sarah and Linda.

We then started switchbacking back and forth across the ridge. This was a really fun piece of trail - the views alternated between the mountains and lakes to the southwest and a glaciated bowl with snowfields to the southeast. It was also really easy hiking. We saw a couple people headed down already, and we passed a couple more people on our way up.

At two miles from the car, all the vegetation had disappeared and the trail got a little more difficult as the terrain got rockier. I was starting to get a bit of a headache from the altitude but nothing bad. There was also a signpost telling us how far we had to go. Apparently there used to be more. Maybe they were still there, but I didn’t notice.

We climed more steeply for a few more switchbacks and then arrived at a false summit, on the edge of the crater (it’s a volcano, after all). This was the first spot where we had views all around so it was nice to see some new things. Shasta was visible through an awful lot of smoke to the north. The views east and south were what we’d been seeing all along. To the east all we could see was the real summit.

We didn’t hang out here long. Between us and the summit was a snow field, but that was easy to cross. We then tackled the final climb to the summit which was actually quite steep and loose. It was by far the hardest part of the hike, but it was very short so we were on top in no time. There were a bunch of people sitting around on the top. Lon and I took turns climbing onto the actual highest spot which only required a little scrambling.

Needless to say, the views were fantastic. We could easily see the Devestated Area (everything destroyed by the last eruption of the peak), Cinder Cone and the entirety of our backpacking trip, every other major peak around, and the valley out where Reading was. I then got out my radio and started working on the SOTA activation. It was really easy from being up so high. I spent about an hour and worked nine stations, including one near San Francisco. I think that’s my longest FM contact. I also talked to a couple guys doing National Parks on the Air from a campground in the park.

While I worked on the radio, Lon talked to several girls we’d passed on the way up who had made it to the top. He succeeded in getting one to stand on the summit pinnacle, but that was it. They left well before we did. We also saw a huge crowd hike up and stop on the false summit. I don’t know if they hiked over to the real summit, but if they did it was thankfully after we left.

The way down was just more of the same - the views were just as great as on the way up. I put the camera away and we just jogged much of the way down. With the easy grade and lack of rocks and roots, it was easy to do. We planned on taking about 90 minutes to get down but we were back in under 50 minutes. That gave us a long time to wait around before the afternoon hike, so we drove down to the visitor’s center and had lunch.

Bumpass Hell (August 25)

We met Sarah and Linda a while later at the Bumpass Hell trailhead. This would be a three mile round trip to the largest thermal area in the park. Sarah’s a big fan of this kind of stuff and it was one of the main reasons I chose Lassen for the trip. It took a little while for everyone to eat and put their boots on and get ready to go, but then we were on our way.

The trail was very simple at first. It left the parking lot and contoured around a big ravine and under some cliffs. It was really pleasant hiking with nice views of the surrounding peaks.

Sarah and I were feeling extra spry, so we got moving at a pretty quick pace. I think she was just very motivated to see the thermal area. Anyway, the trail continued angling around for a while longer then began a gentle climb to an overlook, turned east, and kept climbing. Right when the trail hit its high point, we started to smell the thermal area even though it was still pretty hard to see through the trees.

We had to descend quite a ways to reach Bumpass Hell. Down at the bottom, there was a short trail to the left that overlooked some thermal stuff.

It was damp and stinky there, so we didn’t stay long. We went back to the main trail and then took the next left to head out onto the boardwalks that snaked around all the sights.

There were lots of mudpots and fumaroles and all those sorts of things. I took a lot of pictures because of all the interesting colors and textures. I’m only going to post a couple of them here. The rest are up on the photo site.

We hit the end of the boardwalk and turned around. When we got back to the other end, we met up with Lon and Linda. They went to see all the thermal stuff and Sarah went with them for round two, while I sat and waited. When they got back, Sarah and I debated hiking the trail out to Kings Creek Falls, but I looked at the map and figured out we’d have to do a road walk. So we just all hiked back out together. Sarah and I got ahead a couple times but waited at that overlook and then continued on as a group.