Mt. Lassen is one of two highly recognizable volcanic formations located in the far north of California. The other being Mt. Shasta. Lassen Volcanic National Park is located about an hour east of Redding, CA and is the least visited national park in the system. I’m lucky to basically have it in my backyard. I have been visiting it for years and have always wondered what it would be like to hike to the summit of Mt. Lassen on the Lassen Peak Trail.
This last weekend I finally found out what the trail was all about. We arrived at the trailhead at about 11:15 AM on Saturday morning. We quickly threw on our packs and started up the dusty and rocky Lassen Peak Trail. The entire trail is 5 miles round trip. Now, this doesn’t seem like much, but keep in mind you will gain 2,000 feet in elevation in just 2.5 miles. The trailhead is at 8,500 feet of elevation, and the summit is at 10,457 feet. Not exactly a trail for the faint of heart or short-winded. The trail winds through a sparse bit of forest at the base, and then you quickly begin to ascend the endless switchbacks up the face of this mountain. There are beautiful views to be had from the very start of this trail, which makes the work getting to the top a bit less painful.
At about the halfway point, you begin to get a close up look at the immense volcanic rock formations that jut out of the side of the mountain. These rocks are red in color and you will occasionally catch the scent of sulfur in the air as it is emitted from the vents found all over the mountain. Be sure you bring plenty of water if you decide to hike this trail. There are no fountains or water sources anywhere along the way. Also, it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen as almost all of the trail is un-shaded. I learned that lesson the hard way, unfortunately.
When you finally reach the summit of this beautiful mountain you will be well rewarded with some amazing views. You can see the horizon in every direction you look. On clear days you will see the Trinity Alps, Mt. Shasta, and the rest of the geological wonders that exist in the far north of this state. If you are considering hiking the Mt. Lassen Peak Trail, I would recommend you begin your trip early in the morning during the summer months to beat the heat and the crowds. Also, be sure to give yourself plenty of time. It took us about 5 hours round trip. During other times of the year when the park is less crowded and the weather is cooler, setting out on the trail later in the day should not be an issue.