Friday, July 27, 2012

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain - 7/4 and 7/5

There's nothing quite like spending a week surrounded by active volcanoes, bubbling mudlakes and steaming earth cracks. No one would want to miss sitting by the many incredible blue lakes of the park and walking among the repulsive sulfur springs, but you'd think your average national park visitor would have no desire to climb an active volcano--especially one that gains 2000' over the short 2.5 mile ascent and has permanent snowfields scattered throughout the trail.

Lassen Peak and Summit Lake

Believe it or not, Lassen Peak is one of the most popular hikes in the park--people who you'd never expect to have an interest in peakbagging are suddenly all over this 10,462' mountain. That's not to say that the average park goer doesn't struggle through every step, but there's no reason to turn back when your destination is less than 2.5 miles away (unless you're injured or have symptoms of AMS).

Lassen Peak Trail

The trail is filled with informative signs along the way, detailing the geological history of the area. They also keep you posted on how far you have left before reaching the summit. Although this is encouraging for those who find this climb strenuous, the mileage didn't seem quite right and they'd probably be better off leaving the hikers guessing.

Mt. Shasta from Lassen Peak

If you've never summited a volcano, you're really missing out. Once you've climbed up to the high point and gotten your views of Mt. Shasta and all of the surrounding lakes and volcanoes, don't head back down just yet. The summit of Lassen goes on forever once you climb down into the lava-filled snowy crater.

Lake Helen from Lassen Peak

Exploring the crater

A lake in Lassen's crater

If you find yourself in Lassen National Park and you want to climb a volcano over 9,000' but you're plagued by a nasty case of misanthropy, you might want to give Brokeoff Mountain a try. It's about 1200' shorter than Lassen (but still the second highest point in the park), and the trail is 2 miles longer than the Lassen Peak Trail, so you won't run into as many people on your hike. It's also not an active, bubbling, snarling volcano like Lassen; if Lassen Peak is a volcanic zombie, Brokeoff is more of a volcanic ghost. This one gains 2600' over the 3.5 miles to the top, and you're rewarded with a slightly different view of Mt. Shasta, and a unique view of Lassen Peak.

Brokeoff MountainTrail

Lassen from Brokeoff

There are also plenty of non-peakbagging hikes for children, the elderly, and able-bodied lazy people. It might not have the incredible waterfalls of Yosemite or the vastness of the Grand Canyon, but it certainly doesn't deserve to be one of the least crowded National Parks.

Lassen Peak and Summit Lake