Lassen Volcanic National Park 1: HWY 89

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On the first weekend of summer 2012 I ventured to Crater Lake National Park. To begin the autumn season, I headed out to that other national park of the southern Cascades, Lassen Volcanic National Park, which rises in northeastern California, southeast of Mount Shasta, east of Redding, and west of Susanville. Lassen is not as well known for spectacular scenery. Much of the park is on a high volcanic plateau of sorts. With the exception of Mount Lassen and a few neighboring peaks, much of the park is relatively flat, lacking the sharp towering peaks and deep canyons and gorges that decorate other mountain parks. The mountains themselves are large volcanic heaps, largely treeless and lacking the imposing granite facades of the Sierra or the impressive sandstone formations of Zion and Bryce national parks. The two highest peaks in the park are Mount Lassen (10,457 feet) and Brokeoff Mountain (9,235 feet). Below is Mount Lassen from Helen Lake:

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And here’s Brokeoff Mountain:

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The main section of Lassen Volcanic National Park is reached via Highway 89, which runs from Manzanita Lake in the northwest corner of the park to the southern entrance:

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Three areas of special note stand out for the photographer: Manzanita Lake, Bumphass Hell, and Hat Lake. Let’s begin with Manzinata Lake.

Many national parks have a unique iconic shot associated with the park, such as Oxbow Bend in Grand Tetons or Wild Goose Island Overlook in Glacier. For Lassen, the iconic shot is Mount Lassen reflecting in Mazinata Lake. This is an evening shot. If you’re lucky, the waters will be still and the lake will reflect the mountain. The colors of the mountain change as one proceeds from late evening to dusk:

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To the left of Mount Lassen is a formation called the Chaos Crags, which is also picturesque with the last rays of sunlight bathing it’s rough exterior:

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You can choose to capture Mount Lassen and Chaos Crags in a single shot:

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The Chaos Crags looks bigger to Mount Lassen because it’s closer, not because it’s bigger. It’s not.

Another favorite haunt for photographers is Bumphass Hell, which is in the southern section of the park, just south of Mount Lassen. For photographers, the best time to go is early in the morning, before the crowds inundate the place. It requires a mile and half hike to get there. You climb over a ridge and then descend into a small mountain valley filled with hydrothermal activity:

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There are various gurgling pools and mud pots letting off steam, which can make attractive targets for one’s camera:

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At the parking lot for the trail to Bumphass Hell there exists a large rock sitting on the edge of a cliff:

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Between Manzinita Lake and Bumphass Hell is another scenic spot, Hat Lake. It’s not so much a lake as it is prairie filled with marsh like ponds, which feed a creek known as Hat Creek. For photographers, this is a morning shot. Don’t forget to bring your polarizer filter:

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There are, to be sure, many other areas of the park that can be explored; but if you only staying overnight, Manzanita Lake, Bumphass Hell, and Hat Lake are three places you don’t want to miss. A few other photos:

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