Lassen Volcanic National Park: California’s Mini Yellowstone

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California

When most people think of mud pots, geysers, and thermal pools, Yellowstone National Park immediately comes to mind. In Northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park features many of the same geothermal wonders as Yellowstone with a fraction of the crowds. Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to a volcano that erupted in 1914—and may reawaken again relatively soon.

Geothermal Activity Galore

Lassen Volcanic National Park photo via Depositphotos

Lassen Volcanic National Park features a series of volcanic vents that fuel boiling mud pots, thermal pools that bubble-like La Croix sparkling water, and geysers that periodically erupt. Unlike the massive Yellowstone Caldera, Lassen Volcanic National Park is not a supervolcano. Lassen still has enough geothermal activity to qualify as Yellowstone’s younger cousin.

Chaos Crags reflected in Reflection Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California photo via Depositphotos
Chaos Crags reflected in Reflection Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California photo via Depositphotos.

Bumpass Hell is a 3-mile trail that offers hikers the chance to stand a few feet away from furiously active geothermal pools. Devil’s Kitchen features mud pots surrounded by yellow and red dirt. Lassen’s cluster of volcanos is currently dormant—but the earth beneath them is very much alive.

Lassen Peak

Summit marker, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, USA via Depositphotos
Summit marker, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, USA via Depositphotos

Lassen Peak is a strenuous hike for adventure seekers who have always dreamed of scaling a volcano that has the potential to erupt. The last eruption occurred in 1914 and lasted until 1921. Lassen Peak is currently sleeping but expected to erupt once again in the coming decades.

The catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 prompted scientists to keep a close eye on all potentially active volcanos in the United States. Lassen Peak is the largest lava dome in the world. Hiking Lassen Peak offers onlookers an inspiring view of how nature repairs itself in the wake of scorching lava flows and relentless mudslides.

Geologic Wonders

Lassen holds the rare distinction of having all four types of volcanoes in one area: plug dome, cinder cone, a stratovolcano, and shield volcano. Fields of igneous rock and rolling volcanos are punctuated by pristine mountain lakes and bright wildflowers. The Painted Dunes are one of Lassen’s most iconic landscapes.

Cinder Cone Volcano in Lassen Volcanic National Park photo via Depositphotos
Cinder Cone Volcano in Lassen Volcanic National Park photo via Depositphotos

The Painted Dunes are a red, yellow, and orange pumice field dotted with slim fir trees in Cinder Cone’s shadow. A journey through Lassen National Volcanic Park is a reminder of the earth’s most turbulent geological chapters. Steam escapes into the air throughout the park, signaling that there is still a great deal of tumultuous activity just below the surface.

Lesser-known National Parks like Lassen offers diverse attractions and breathtaking scenery that rival some of the more congested National Parks. In addition to abundant geothermal activity and dormant volcanoes, Lassen hosts an annual Dark Sky Festival that attracts astronomers and stargazers worldwide.

Yellowstone’s geologically active little cousin is the ideal travel destination for those who yearn to see a geyser erupt without being surrounded by a dense crowd.

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