Lassen Volcanic National Park

Hell on Earth

Bumpass Hell

The only place in California where you can get a glimpse of Hades is Bumpass Hell. Boiling pools, hissing holes, bubbling mudpots — it's not a place you'd wish to live in. After a visit, the primordial stench of hydrogen sulfide stays with you for hours, and for weeks your dreams may overflow with fire and brimstone. Sixteen acres of naked earth, mostly glaring white but stained with wonderful pastels also, fuss and fume. Signs tell you repeatedly not to stray from the boardwalk trail, and only a madman would do so. Hell is reached in half an hour via an excellent trail beginning in a huge parking lot a mile and a half south of the highway pass. Michelin's California Green Guide gives the thermal area its maximum three stars, calling it"Worth the Journey." Allow two hours for a leisurely round trip.

Mount Diller

A remnant of the ancient volcano that preceded Lassen, 9,087-foot Mount Diller is the park's fourth-highest point. According to its register, only two or three parties a year reach the craggy summit, which offers a striking view of the rugged north face of Brokeoff Mountain, only a mile and a half distant. Park in the Sulphur Works Parking Lot, a mile up the highway from the South Entrance Station. You'll soon find a trail leading up the flower-covered ridgelet just left of the thermal area; follow this path, ferociously steep at times, one mile to Ridge Lake, surely Lassen's prettiest pond. Turreted Mount Diller rises to the north; climb up easy terrain, then a miserably steep and loose slope to join the level summit ridge just right of the rocky steps at the left end of the ridge. Wander through matted whitebark pines to the shattered summit. While a half-hour portion of this trek is tiring and frustrating, one must always keep in mind a simple fact: Getting to the top of any peak, sans trail, is rarely easy. This axiom is offset by another: In retrospect, it's always worth it. Plan on three hours to the top from the Sulphur Works.

Those who want an easier trip in the same vicinity should head up the hill due west of Ridge Lake to a broad, colorful saddle, then climb a gentle slope south to the top of the crest (8,640 feet). The bird's-eye view of Brokeoff's escarpment is the high point of this short outing. Brokeoff, a remnant of the original huge caldera that preceded Lassen, is misnamed: Nothing broke off this peak — the rest of the caldera simply disappeared, leaving a part of the wall standing.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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