Lassen National Park – A Fantastic Voyage

turtle bay exploration park sign

First Things First –

Before we can get to our story of Lassen National Park, we have to start by sharing our first adventure of the day. We packed up our gear and left our campground at Whiskeytown and ventured back to Redding for a visit to the Sundial Bridge.

What is Sundial Bridge you ask? Well, I had done a bit of research about Redding seeing as we travel Interstate 5 more often than we’d like and this seemed like something to see. 

the sacramento river

Sundial Bridge

It is both a bridge (across the Sacramento River) and a gigantic sundial! Apparently, the city of Redding commissioned world-famous architect, Santiago Calatrava to design a pedestrian bridge over the river. It is 710 feet long and doesn’t have footings in the water.

sundial bridge, redding, ca

As you can see the surface is translucent glass – and that inclined 21 story pylon on the far end supports it all! We enjoyed walking on it, watching the river below, and all the people walking, running, biking, and pushing strollers one way or the other. 

We realized it’s a popular spot for early morning outings whether for fitness, meeting friends or taking pictures. It does feel like you’re suspended in the air as you cross the span.

sundial bridge, redding, ca

It is an impressive sight, and we walked all around taking photographs from every angle.

sundial bridge, redding, ca

Obviously, the next photo is underneath, with thousands of spider webs! You could see people’s feet from there.

sundial bridge, redding, ca

What a Terrific Place

We always appreciate it when cities, counties, whoever, find ways to support bold and inventive development. There are plenty of city councils ready to demonstrate an unyielding dedication to more of the same – the tried and true – only a few willing to consider more impressive options.

How often do we go anywhere to look at a bridge? This one is worth the trouble if you’re up that way. You can watch our short video as well.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Soon enough we got back on the road and headed toward our main attraction for the day – Lassen Volcanic National Park – an hour and a half straight east from Redding.

We hadn’t done much reading about the place and didn’t have a lot of time, but it sounded interesting and was on the way to Reno where we had reserved a ‘free’ room for the night. 

Since all the campgrounds I found south of the Park, were not far enough south, we chose to get a hotel. You know the traveler’s dilemma – a ‘short’ day today means a ‘long’ day tomorrow. Also, we were confident we could cover more ground.

Also, the campgrounds we did see were high up, and we were concerned about the weather: too cold and rainy all over. We needed to go down and east. 

lassen volcanic national park - manzanita lake

The photo you see above is at Manzanita Lake, very close to the western park entrance. It was quite beautiful, and we hung out a bit. The water was that special blue you see only in lakes at high altitude. 

You Can’t Get Lost

At the Visitor Center, we took a brochure and found that as with many National Parks there was one road through the Park and 90% of the rest was designated wilderness: no roads and no access! That made our path clear – one road winding through the park – you can’t get lost!

lassen volcanic national park - trees on a hillside

The road turned northward rather quickly before heading south. During that leg, we saw many rocky areas – trees growing out of rocks, no soil to be seen.

lassen volcanic national park - burned trees

The next significant change was when we entered a massive fire devastated area.

lassen volcanic national park

After a while, we came into thick forests filled with trees, naturally, but also huge pine cones, the largest we’ve ever seen, and lichen – as you can see below.

lassen volcanic national park - tree trunks covered with lichen

We both loved this place!

lassen volcanic national park

The next photo was at Summit Lake Campground – a terrific spot to camp! We’ll have to remember that.

lassen volcanic national park - a lake and trees

At the road’s highest point we stopped to marvel at the vista a while.

lassen volcanic national park - a grand vista

At the summit looking south, I believe. I can see for miles and miles – Who said that?

lassen volcanic national park - 8511 ft. elevation sign

The summit was high enough, way up there, for a paved road. Still, Mount Lassen was far above us, thousands of feet up past the road, the snow-covered peak dominating the whole area yet peaceful.

lassen volcanic national park

It’s always a treat seeing so far, from a road no less, with no hiking involved. Of course, hiking the trails makes the views even better, but there’s all that … hiking involved. 

Spectacular Beauty

After turning the next bend, this is what we saw! Lake Helen, an alpine lake of incredible color, I didn’t doctor the photos at all.

We had a picnic lunch there and marveled at the intense beauty of this lake.

lassen volcanic national park - lake helen

We walked down to the waters’ edge and gawked. It was breathtakingly beautiful, the water as clear as can be. Another thing, the reflections in alpine lakes, the way the mountain peaks appear off the water – nothing like it. 

lassen volcanic national park - lake helen

Let’s Take a Walk!

We noticed a sign talking about a hike to Bumpass Hell and then saw a large parking lot filled with cars. Supposedly it was a three-mile hike – no big deal.

Everywhere we go, especially the National Parks, we try to get out of the car and take in a hiking trail. This one sounded just about right. lassen volcanic national park - a steep and narrow trail

Hiking trails come in all types. This one looked flat and clear, at least from the starting area. But go around a couple of bends, and you find the trail dug into the side of a steep mountain, and hikers are perched high up on the incline. Oh, and the wind was nearly blowing away the smaller, lighter hikers. So it seemed.

lassen volcanic national park - a steep and narrow trail

Look at That Drop!

You fall, you’re dead. The trail would have been great if it went only one way. For two-way traffic, it was on the thin side. This day, clear weather, warm afternoon, we saw tons of hikers in groups large and small. Most friendly enough to say hello and share the trail.

Surprisingly not all, far from it. We usually find hikers, campers, folks outdoors, always friendly and courteous, as we try to be. Not this time.  No big deal, right? Except on that trail, the price of moving aside was getting very close to the edge: old, young, feeble alike. Yikes, what’s the hurry?

lassen volcanic national park - a steep and narrow trail

Despite all that, the trail was up high, affording tremendous views. The photo above was the flattest, aka, safest part. The one below was more typical of the trail: better watch where you step.

lassen volcanic national park - a steep and narrow trail

Honestly, I had a few moments of absolute terror on the narrowest parts. Those bits went past my comfort zone, and all the people freaked me out. For awhile, I was holding on to the hill for dear life and moving extremely slowly while trying not to panic.

lassen volcanic national park - bumpass hell sign

Oh, we’re going there! 

lassen volcanic national park - bumpass hell

We Arrived and Departed

The photos below show the destination: Bumpass Hell. There were walkways to allow viewing up close without stepping in the boiling pits. We much preferred the journey to the destination on this one. Maybe our ‘inner’ geologists haven’t come on stream yet.

After looking around – we had to do it all again, in reverse. But it was a lot more fun, we knew what to expect and paced ourselves.

lassen volcanic national park - bumpass hell

One thing about being in nature, you can always hear when there’s a group of kids around: chatter, chatter, scream and all that, they stand out a mile away. We played hopscotch with a group of students all the way back.

We would pass them, the adults and youngsters stopped to regroup along the trail. Then they passed us, resting after a steep climb. Repeat. Repeat. At one point one of us recognized a logo on someone’s t-shirt. “Did you see that? Do you think it’s possible? Fifth graders out on the geology trip?” 

lassen volcanic national park - bumpass hell

Shortly after that, we asked where they were from and what they were doing. Indeed, a class from a nearby Waldorf Charter School out on the typical class trip to study geology.

We introduced ourselves to some of the adults: we knew of that trip well. Combined, we sent six kids on similar trips, mostly to Death Valley. Well, it is a small world after all, as they say. 

lassen volcanic national park

We Didn’t Die!

When we finally came around the last bend and saw the parking lot, it was quite a relief!

It was more of a hike than we planned on: snacks, jackets, ever water – safely back in the car. And it was good to get on the flat ground and out of the wind. See, on the map, it looks like no big deal at all!

Once back in the car, we set off southward through the last bit of the park. This place is fantastic and a few days before neither of us had even heard of it. If you’re ever in the Redding area, we encourage you to take the time and explore the park. It’s a great one, one we intend to return to for a longer visit and hopefully a couple of days in one of those exquisite campgrounds.

What’s Next – Our trip to Lake Tahoe 

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  1. Sometimes maps are just so playfully encouraging, I guess 🙂

    1. That’s a good way to put it! I have a question for you if you don’t mind. How did you find our post? We only recently began trying to get the word out and I did start following the Daily Post – is that where you found it? thanks so much!!

      1. Indeed. From the “Community Pool” it is. Good luck! >-I

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