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Cinder Cone At Lassen – On The Hiking Trail


We were at  the  visitor  center  at Lassen  National  Park poring over  the map.  For  a  nature  lover there  are many interesting  things  to  do here.   I knew  what  I   must to do  the  minute i saw  the  picture of  the  Cinder Cone  Trail.  Lassen  has  no  dearth of volcanic  domes –  around  30  in  all. May be I  am  hopelessly lost  when  it  comes  to  certain things – but  look at  Cinder  cone  –  doesn’t  it  look  special ?? This  is a  700 ft high  Volcanic  cone ,  which has been  dormant   for  over  a  century (at least).  It is hard to  resist  an opportunity to  check  out  the place from where  earth’s  fury has been  unleashed  over  and  over !!

The  entrance  to  this  trail  is  at  the  Butte  lake  parking area, at  the  North  east  corner of  the park.   If  you plan to  drive  up , do keep in mind  that from Highway 44  the   road  to  Butte Lake is  unpaved.  Though our  ride  was uneventful, in retrospect a spare  tire is  a  good   thing   to have!  This is a beautiful  place  to  camp – the  weather  was  pleasant  at  the  peak of  summer, the lake  cool and  clear , the  mountain air  invigorating, and   scenery  unmatched.

Cinder Cone Trail Head

I wasn’t kidding when I said the road was unpaved.

As you survey the  area, the  trek  doesn’t seem hard. To  be  fair  it is a  an  easy trek, that is until   you reach the base of the  volcano.  The  trail to  the  base  follows the Nobles Emigrant Trail –   which was  used  until the railroads became more popular.   It is a pleasant  stroll  through the the Jeffery pine forest ,  with great  views of  the  fantastic  lava beds.  There  is  no  trail  through the lava  beds. The lava  rocks  vary in  size, from  few  centimeters  to  up to  100 ft and  are  not  stacked  tightly, offering convenient  hiding  place  and  burrowing  grounds  for  the fauna.

Cinder Cone Trail

Not hard to imagine horse carriages passing through here .

Once  you  arrive  at  the  base of  the  volcano,  be sure  to  take a  break and  enjoy the  scenery.  From here it is  easy to  see  the   thick  waves of  lava  flow. If  you are  here before  mid day  the  climb up is  partly  in the  shadows, on the  other had  in the  evening  the sun  may not be  your ally but the views   will be  spectacular.   A word of  caution  though,  it  you are planning to  catch the  sunset at the  top do pack a flash light  along .

The  climb  up the  volcano is  hard.  The  trail here is quite  steep. The  sides of  the  volcano  as  well as  the  trail is covered with  black cinders.  These small rocks  give  way under  your  feet  making  the progress  difficult. As if  that isn’t  enough  rock and  sand  get in  through  the  shoes, making  it  even  more  unpleasant. Slow  and  steady wins  the  race  here,  except  there is  no race :-).  Half way  up the  mountain Lassen  peak becomes  visible,  as if  to remind you to take a  break and  catch your  breath.

Did I make  it  sound too tough?  Well  don’t be  discouraged !  To  be  frank  there were  many septuagenarians  who  smiled  at  us kindly as  we  struggled  to climb up. DH  was greeted by an 80  year  old  lady  as  he  was  helping  our  6 year  old  up the  way. 6 to 80  is a  good age  range,  don’t  you  think ?  So  yes  you can  do it !

Cinder Cone Climb

There we are ready for the climb

Once  you reach the  top, the  view   makes it all worth  the  trouble. There is  evidence  of  nature’s power of  destruction  all around, mixed  with beauty and  the resilience of  life!  Here you  take  comfort  in the  fact  that  all these  volcanoes  are extinct(?) .   But if  you  have  information other wise,   please don’t  educate  me – at  least  not  until  I have  been there once  more.

At  the  top of the  volcano the  trail  goes  around  the  outer  rim  as well as  the inner rim.  The  trail to  the  bottom of  the crater goes  down from the inner  rim. The path  along  the  rims  are  not  hard  to navigate  at all, but the  trail  down to the  crater is  made  up of   volcanic  rocks  bent  to  hampering  your  progress. Now  that you have  conquered the  beast  why get  scared by a pet bunny !!

The way back  down is  much much easier —  you could  even   run  down  in a  few  minutes. Notice how we do not have any pictures of us climbing up.  Between the  kids , the  rocks  and  the  the  tough  climb , lets  just  say  we had  more pressing matters at hand ;-).

Few more Pictures
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Where –  Cinder Cone Volcano at Lassen Nation Park
Distance – 4 M round trip
Time –  3 to 4  hours
Difficulty –  Challenging
Elevation  Change – About 800ft
Elevation –  6061 to 6907 fT

The Challenge – This  is a  challenging  trek.  Even the  ones  in their  peak of  health   find  the  trek up  to be  tough , but it  is  not  dangerous.
Views Views Views  – 360  degree  views  from the  top . Snow clad volcanic  peaks,  pristine  lakes,  lava beds,  and nature’s artistry
Quiet  and  Un-spoilt 

Pickup  a  leaflet  at  the trail head of  from the visitor  center.  It is a  good  way  understand   the  geological features along  the  trail.
Hiking  boots – your  best buddy on the  way up.
Hiking  sticks – the second best.
Flash Light- if  you plan to  watch sunset  and  climb down
Carry plenty of   water.
Camera & sunscreen
Most of all – Take your  time and enjoy the scenery. Remember it  is  not a  race !!!

Cinder Cone Hike

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