Lassen Volcanic National Park

I first went to Lassen Volcanic National Park with my family back in 2013, and it was way too hot. Unfortunately, my memories of our trip there are all tainted by how overheated I was at the time. I have wanted to go back since we moved out here, and I was happy to finally make it happen this past weekend. I also managed to convince Lisa and her son to join me, so that made it all the more fun. We left Friday after work, and enjoyed a GORGEOUS sunset on our way. I do not see a lot of sunsets in Sacramento because there are so many tall trees (my favorite problem), so this one felt extra stunning.

We arrived at our campsite in Summit Lake South Campground just after 9 pm. They set up their tent and I decided to give hammock camping a try since I was not camping alone for once. I will have a full review of that experience on Thursday. I woke up early on Saturday morning and got breakfast started. The kiddo came stumbling out of his tent as soon as he realized I was working on a fire because he was “frozen very solid.” It was in the low-30s and while my natural state of being overheated LOVES some cold air, I forget that other people are miserable in anything below 60.

Lisa got up, we took our time getting ready and eating breakfast, then headed to Lassen Peak (the volcano!) to get our hike on. The hike is 2.5 miles up with almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain, and is classified as “hard.” Since they are still new to hiking, we agreed to take it one step at a time and see how far we could get. I never want to push someone to the point where they are miserable and have a bad experience. I want people to feel good when they are hiking, even when it is challenging. It sure seemed like a loooooooong way up there from the parking lot.

When we left it was just around 40 degrees at the base, but the wind kicked up shortly after we started our ascent. It was ferocious. Thankfully, we had all packed some extra layers at the last minute because we were chilly in the parking lot. About a mile in, we could see something blowing our way.

Sure enough, we were soon greeted with snow! I am honestly surprised they didn’t quit when that happened. The temperature had dropped even more, and my South Texas friends were struggling. But, they hunkered down and powered on.

We eventually made it to some switchbacks on the other side of the mountain which gave us a brief break from the wind. The clouds blew on and the sky cleared which made for a gorgeous day. I was so thankful it was cold because there was no shade. I would have baked to death if it had been over 60 degrees.

We loved all of the geology signage on the trail about the changing terrain. It felt like we were on another planet at times.

We finally made it to the top after about three hours. It was a challenging hike, but the trail was good. We took a lot of breaks to make sure people had a chance to rest, but I was proud of them for pushing themselves even though they were tired.

We were planning to eat lunch up there, but the wind was ridiculous, so we made our way back down to hide behind some rocks. We celebrated our achievement with Dr. Pepper like good Texans. 

The hike down was quick and easy, and we were able to enjoy the spectacular view.We felt quite proud of ourselves for making it up the mountain and it was a wonderful achievement for us all! I was very impressed with Lisa’s son because he never once complained and kept a positive attitude the entire time. He asked to take breaks, but kept pushing himself to make it to the top. It was so fun to have him there and see how happy he was with his accomplishment. After the hike, we went to take showers at Manzanita Lake, then went back to our campsite for the evening. We were quite tired, and it was clear that poor Lisa was quickly coming down with a cold. Lisa and I enjoyed some wine our coworker had given us for the trip (the best cure for a cold I think) and we made pizzas in the dutch oven.

We played cards, made s’mores, and had an all-around fabulous evening. We were in site D07 which was fantastic as we only had neighbors on one side. It was huge (below only shows about 2/3 of the full size) and was also close to the beautiful Summit Lake.

After we went to bed, Lisa ended up getting in the car halfway through the night because she needed to be propped up in order to breathe. By Sunday morning, she clearly felt like garbage, so we packed up to head back to Sacramento first thing. We made a few quick stops on our way out to see the mudpots and some nice overviews, but we were amazed by Lake Helen.

Lassen Peak is pictured to the right, and we could see the lake for most of our hike on Saturday. It would be a gorgeous place for a swim on a hot summer day.

We had a fantastic time at the park especially since there was practically no one there. I cannot wait to go back and do some more exploring! I am so thankful that we have a treasure like Lassen just a few hours away.

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