Lassen Volcanic National Park
The North Country
The region north of the highway summit is rich in volcanic interest. Devastated Area, under Lassen's north face, was created in a few minutes in 1915, and if you wander away from the road you'll see a strange sight. Trees knocked over by the pyroclastic blast lie everywhere. Most have rotted — some are mere dark stains on the parched earth — but all point directly away from Lassen's summit.
Farther along the highway lie the huge, sere masses called Chaos Crags. Only about a thousand years old, this jumble of raw dacite lava is a fascinating place. A trail begins near the Manzanita Lake Campground and goes up about two miles through a shadowy white-fir forest to a dramatic viewpoint at the very base of the formation.
The Mysterious East
Few visitors ever see the eastern half of the park, which is reachable only by dirt roads far from the main park highway. But if you have the time, one trip is especially worthwhile: the exploration of Cinder Cone, the most perfectly shaped volcano in the lower 48. Though it stands but 700 feet above a harsh lava bed, you'll think it's twice as high as you make your way up the steep trail, slipping back the proverbial two steps for every one gained. To get to Butte Lake, the trailhead, leave the north edge of the park and drive east on Highway 44 for about 20 miles, then follow signs south to the lake.
The Lassen massif receives huge amounts of snow, and travel to the places mentioned above is usually not possible until mid-July. By far the most enjoyable time to visit the park is during the two months following Labor Day, when the crowds and mosquitoes have vanished. During the winter — which usually begins in mid-November — cross-country skiing possibilities abound. The road is plowed to the South Entrance Station, and from there you can take off in myriad directions into the backcountry. Bumpass Hell in winter is a marvelous sight.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication