Outdoor markets, warmly lit downtowns, cozy restaurants, cheerful locals... there is something special about American…
There seems to be a dating app or website for every type of person. So why not make one for National Parks? Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Yosemite are like the rock stars and supermodels of the dating world—sexy, sure, but too much drama and competition! Where are all the kind librarians, sensible accountants or strong, silent outdoorsmen and women of the National Parks world?
Until someone creates Tinder for travelers, I’ll be showcasing some of the lesser known parks here. Read their profile to see if these under-the-radar spots might be your National Park soulmate.
Here’s why you should visit Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Age: I’ve heard I look good for my age, but don’t let that fool you: I’m a centenarian. I celebrated 100 years as a National Park last year. Even though I am one of the older parks, I’m still one of the lesser known. Be honest, had you heard of me? Didn’t think so.
Location: I’m about four-hours northeast of Sacramento, California, nestled within the peaceful forests and untouched wilderness.
Size: 106,452 acres
Annual visitors: 433,000
Height: I top out at Lassen Peak, which serves as a 8,512-foot backdrop throughout much of the park.
Claim to fame: Bumpass Hill Trail, a 3-mile round-trip hike that showcases my largest concentration of hydrothermal features. The active area can be seen (and smelled) from quite a distance. The 16-acre bowl is filled with various steaming pools and unusual multi-colored soils, stained orange, brown, yellow and green by sulfur and other minerals. Together with occasional white snow patches, blue sky and the aquamarine waters, it’s a vibrant spectacle.
Please note that Bumpass Hell was named after an early settler who severely burned a leg after falling into a boiling pool. Learn from his mistake and stick to the trail.
Most private thing I’m willing to admit here: I’m said to have a bit of a temper. Just take a look at my hissing fumaroles and boiling mud pots—all evidence of my fiery past as an active volcano. I’ve been working on my anger issues and haven’t had an “incident” since May 22, 1915. I heard they found volcanic ash as far away as 200 miles to the east. Oops!
Don’t let this scare you. I’m a safe place to visit so long as you stick to trails (see above). Some people even think I’m more beautiful when I’m steaming. Check out Bumpass Hell and Sulphur Works to see my super-heated steam surfacing through fractures in the earth to form fumaroles.
Heritage: The Lassen area was a meeting point for at least four American Indian groups: Atsugewi, Yana, Yahi, and Maidu. Due to weather, the area was mostly used for hunting and gathering in the warmer months. Tribal descendants still live in the area and are valuable partners to the park. The most notable in recent history was Ishi Ishi, regarded as the last of the Yahi A Yahi Indians. Ishi turned up in Oroville, Calif. in 1911. He never mixed with outsiders before, and his tribe was thought to be nonexistent. Ishi was considered the last stone age survivor in the United States.
Favorite animal: I adore pikas! These cute and cuddly mammals are hamster-sized, but are related to the rabbit family. They’re only about six inches long and weigh six ounces, with big, round ears. Heart emoji!
Sadly, research suggests that pikas are being lost from lower elevations in some areas in response to increased global warming. I don’t have kids, but I have adopted a pika! You can too—more details here.
How I like to spend the weekend: On horseback. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a total newbie, I can set you up on a memorable ride. A great place to start is a trek to Boiling Springs Lake, aka the biggest acid lake in the United States. The entire ride takes about an hour, making it perfect for families. Details here.
Nightlife: For more than 120 years, people have been coming to soak in the soothing waters of the valley’s hot mineral springs. Originally, my 135-degree water ran through a hollow log into a “tub” of creek water. These days, you’ll soak in a more modern swimming pool. During the day, the pool serves as a regular ol’ pool, but at night, it’s heated up to create a giant hot tub. Soaking in the relaxing water while looking at the breathtaking stars is an experience you will never forget!
Favorite Season: Summer! Most of my amenities are open seasonally, roughly from May through October. That said, there’s some incredible cross country skiing and snowshoeing to be had in the colder months.
Favorite movie: Joe Versus the Volcano. Tom Hanks can do no wrong!
Best place for a Selfie: On a standup paddleboard as you explore crystal-clear Manzanita Lake. Try to get Lassen Peak in the background. Just don’t fall in—the water isn’t hot, but it will ruin your precious phone! Rent a SUP, kayak or canoe at Lassen Recreation.
Not to be presumptuous, but if you were to spend the night…: Take a step back in time at Drakesbad Guest Ranch. Initially homesteaded in the 1880s, this property sits at the base of a rugged glacier carved valley and provides easy access to outdoor recreation. Book your overnight accommodations in the ranch’s historic lodge, cabins, and bungalows. Indulge in gourmet meals and soaks in the hydrothermal spring fed pool; book a horseback ride, set out on a hike, enjoy a day of fishing, or just hang at the lodge with a cup of coffee and a good book.
Fun Fact: You might see Pacific Coast Trail hikers on their trek from Mexico to Canada. If you do, and you happen to have an extra beer, soda or snack, share they love and they’ll be forever grateful.