The Mount Lassen “Reach the Peak” Climb

Photo of Mount Lassen sunset

Our friends Ben Webster (who is a board member of the Lassen Park Foundation) and his wife Joy invited us to take part in the 2nd annual Reach the Peak event at Mount Lassen. This 5-mile roundtrip hike to the top of Mount Lassen and back on the Lassen Peak Trail has a 2,000 foot gain in elevation.

At the elevation of 10,463 feet, hikers are encouraged to bring plenty of water and snacks, comfortable hiking shoes, sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. This year the skies were hazy, as you can see in the above photos from the devastating Carr wildfire in Northern California.

We arrived the day before the scheduled hike and spent the night in a wonderful cabin under millions of twinkling stars along the shores of Lake Almanor. Wilson’s Camp Prattville Resort is located at 2932 Almanor Drive West, Canyon Dam, California and is a great place to stay, before and after a hike up the 10,463-foot high volcano.

Above, the shoreline of Wilson’s Camp Prattville Resort which borders Lake Almanor offers rustic, but comfortable cabins and even has a restaurant adjacent to the property that serves up hearty meals to help fuel your climb up Mount Lassen.

Above, a sapling sprouts from an old piece of driftwood where a seagull had left the remains of its crawfish lunch.

Participants of the Reach the Peak Hike-A-Thon received a colorful tee-shirt, a cool bib and a when they completed the hike, reaching the peak, they received a patch proclaiming their accomplishment.

The start of the hike began at about 8,000 feet and would end at the peak some 10,000 feet behind us.

In 1984 a small group of passionate Mount Lassen visitors met with then park superintendent Bill Stephenson to discuss starting a foundation to support projects in the national park. The later group incorporated as the Lassen Park Foundation and began its work to assist the National Park Service in raising private funds to do those things for which Federal funding fell short. Foremost in their thoughts was the creation of a true visitor center for Lassen Volcanic National Park, which at the time was one of a few major national parks without a formal visitor center. Please visit the Lassen Park Foundation website:

The trail leading to the peak is well maintained but is at times steep as it switches back and forth. Along the way, the vistas seem to get more and more spectacular.

The trail leading to the peak is well maintained but is at times steep as it switches back and forth. Along the way, the vistas seem to get more and more spectacular.

There are two major milestones along the way up to the peak. The first is when you are about halfway there, the second is when you are a one-half mile from the top (above). As you climb higher in elevation, make sure to acclimate yourself to the lower oxygen levels. I stopped at several switchbacks to rest, breath in the air and simply enjoy the views and the experience.

As this was our first time climbing to the peak of Mount Lassen, we had asked many people prior to our hike if the hike was a difficult one. We heard many different views and would make up our own opinions as we climbed to the top. In all truthfulness, this was a difficult climb but I am in my 60s and I made it all the way up. I did not set any world speed records and enjoyed the experience immensely. Along the way, we saw people of all age groups, from young to old, who were able to complete the trek to the top.

As you will start to notice in some of the following photos there are what appears to be black dots. These are not from dust particles on my camera. They are in fact butterflies. I will explain more as we go along.

Black butterflies photobomb us as we reach the first peak.

Above and below, we have reached the first peak and are rewarded with spectacular views and a fantastic aerial display by thousands of butterflies as they glide in the updrafts.

Above, our ultimate goal was to reach the highest point of Mount Lassen, which can be seen in the background. This meant that we had to traverse a small glacier of sorts.

Above, the red in this photo is called Watermelon Snow, algae that are said to smell like watermelon but eating it is not advised, nor is eating yellow snow recommended.

Above, the sign at the top of Mount Lassen describing the migration of thousands of California Tortoiseshell butterflies that glide all around you by the thousands. Below, we were all so proud of our achievement that we spent considerable time documenting our reaching the peak.

After a brief respite at the first peak, we geared up for crossing the ice field and traversing the second and highest peak.

The second peak was quite difficult to climb as the trails were steep and very much unimproved. Loose boulders and small rounded volcanic pebbles made for a slippery ascent. But we made it, thanks in large part to our host who seems to be a genetic mutation of a mountain goat and a human!

Below, the views from up top literally take your breath away, of course, the thin air at this altitude contributed greatly to that feeling of lightheadedness!

Above and below, these photos are looking directly into the cone of the Mount Lassen volcano. What can be seen are the vestiges of the most recent eruption that occurred on June 14, 1914.

Can you spot the five hikers in the photo below as they trek over the highest volcanic cone in the park?

Here they are at about 10,000 feet elevation:

Below, a great place to just relax and text your friends about your accomplishment:

Below, we knew that the trek down would be much easier than the effort it took to get to the top. But it is said that most accidents happen on the descent so we took it slowly and carefully.

Above, slippery, loose rocks made the going difficult, both up and down, but we were very careful and everyone made it without sustaining any injuries.

Above and below, I must say that on the way up to the peak I was focused on simply getting there. I had been building up for this excursion for several months and my goal was to reach the top. I knew it would not be easy but I also knew that the feeling of accomplishment would be a great one. With that said, I spent the time going upward focused on the trail in front of me, rarely looking at the magnificent scenery all around me except when I stopped at switchbacks. On the way down it was different. I had done it, and I wanted to “stop and smell the roses” as I descended the mountain.

How a tree can grow in this harsh environment is difficult to understand. This pine tree, with its gnarled and twisted trunk, produces beautiful pine cones that weep a crystal clear resin.

Above, the alpine lupine in all of its glory. At Mount Lassen the snow comes early and stays late, in fact, part of the main road is closed in the winter. Throughout the park are numerous volcanic peaks, bubbling mud pots and lava domes. Interlaced through it all are carpets of glorious wildflowers that seem to change as the season’s change.

In the photo above, we stand among some of the youngest rocks in the world the reside at Mount Lassen National Park. This is a great place to visit and it offers numerous places to hike and explore. A visit to the majestic Mount Lassen should be on everyone’s bucket list.  The hike to the top gives you an amazing sense of accomplishment, of course, that lightheaded feeling may also be in part due to the lack of oxygen at the highest level of the mountain.  Enjoy your visit to this spectacular place and don’t forget to add another drop in the bucket!

Click on the following to watch a video that I made of the park and our trek up Mount Lassen:

All photographs are the copyright of Jim Jackson Photography. Please contact me for authorization to use any photos or for hand-signed, high-resolution copies.

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