Fall has arrived!
With fall comes dramatic weather, cooler temperatures, and rain. What’s a hiker to do? Hit the trails!
So we packed our warmer sleeping bags and rain gear and off we went to Lassen Volcanic National Park…
Lassen Peak – 5 miles, strenuous
The California Conservation Corp and National Park trail crews have been hard at work the past few years reworking the Lassen Peak Trail. Years of misuse have caused erosion that will take decades to heal but thanks to the efforts of the trail crews, the trail is now well defined and graded.
The trail has only been open on special occassions while work is being completed and National Public Lands Day was one of those times. In an attempt to avoid the crowds, we headed up at 5:45 AM and aimed to reach the summit around sunrise.
Turned out this was a great idea. We had the summit to ourselves and had plenty of time for pictures and even though it was mostly cloudy, the sky opened up to give us a breathtaking views of alpen-glow bathed Shasta.
If you plan on heading up this early, it is very important that you are ready for cold, windy weather. Keep moving as you’ll cool down quickly when you stop. Wear layers and take them off as you warm up on the way up as a sweaty body is a good way to get hypothermia. As a luxury, think about leaving a thermos of hot tea, or another beverage in your car for after the hike.
As we headed down, we ran into the trail crews which were slowly starting their workday and got back to a quickly filling parking lot. Had we started a few hours later, we’d be following a line of people up the mountain.
Kings Falls Trail – 5 miles, moderate
Since we had started so early, we now had plenty of daylight to hike more. While clouds loomed around Lassen Peak, the Kings Falls Trails was mostly sunny. We did a 5-mile loop that took us to lakes and waterfalls. Though the year had been dry, the fall was still impressive, possibly rejuvenated by the recent rains. The hike along Kings Creek was gorgeous, though, unfortunately a section was closed due to dangerous conditions. The equestrian route climbed earlier and provided stunning views into Warner Valley. Elevation on this hike was minimal but there was one tough climb as we headed back to the car.
Ridge Lakes – 2 miles, moderate
This hike starts at the Sulfur Works Parking Area. While it’s only about a mile from the trailhead to the top of the ridge crest, it is a very steep hike (1,000 feet of elevation gain) and the muddy trail made sections more challenging. Watch your footing!
The burn in your quads and all the huffing and puffing will be rewarded by arguably the prettiest lake scene in the park. The beauty of the calm, shallow lakes reflecting the surrounding ridges was only accentuated by the expressive sky.
Brokeoff Mountain – 7.4 miles, strenuous
Brokeoff is certainly a tougher hike than Lassen Peak in every sense of the word. The trail is longer, steeper, and with more elevation gain. Why is this mountain often forsaken for its better known neighbor? Likely because it hangs 1,200 feet further from outer space.
You won’t be doing yourself any favors if you forgo this hike though. The meadows and forest of the first section are tranquil. The second, steeper half affords you great views of the park and into the Northernmost regions of the Sierra Nevada. The peak itself is just as impressive as I was quite stricken with the jagged rocky outcrops veiled by thick mist.
As a benefit, since most visitors flock to the more popular Lassen, you’re more likely to be alone on the hike.
Other Hikes in Lassen Volcanic National Park:
- Bumpass Hell – via Mill Creek Falls, 13 miles, strenuous
- Warner Valley – Mt. Harkness, Devils Kitchen, Terminal Geyser – 10 miles, moderate
- Summit Lake to Cinder Cone – 22.6-mile overnight, strenuous
- The Butte Lake Area – Prospect Peak – 8 miles, moderate, Jakey Lake – 19 miles, strenuous
- Manzanita Lake Area – various hikes of various difficulty
Visit our National Park Service Guide for more hikes in our national parks.