Butte Lake Area, Lassen National Park, California, USA
Posted by: budgettravel 3 years, 5 months ago
Cinder Cone, Lassen National Park, California
Cinder Cone hike was a very pleasant surprise. The 4 mile roundtrip hike starts with a fairly flat trail on black volcanic sand going under the shade of evergreens and passing by a 20 foot high wall of black lava rock known as the Fantastic Lava Beds.
Cinder Cone in the distance, Lassen NP, California
I had seen pictures of Cinder Cone from the bottom and was half-hearted about climbing the almost 800ft volcanic cone made of loose black rocks all the way to its summit. But after sitting in the car for almost five hours, I was ready for a good leg stretch. Toward the end of our 2 mile trail, there loomed the volcanic cone for us to conquer (for me, to scramble up slowly with many breaks).
On the outer rim to view Snag Lake in the distance, Cinder Cone, Lassen NP, CA
My older kids and husband decided to have a race to the top. My youngest and I slowly jabbed our feet into the loose rocks. I quickly learned that placing my feet into others’ footsteps helped me hold my ground better than finding my own way. I also realized that my youngest son is better at making his way up this black cone than his mom is. I think I’m going to have to work out to keep up with these guys. It was very warm going up but the unfolding views kept me distracted on our climb up. In the distance was a snow-capped Lassen Peak and a blue lake juxtaposed against a very black field of lava.
View of Lassen Peak from Cinder Cone crater rim, Lassen NP, CA
Before I knew it, my dear husband was making his way back down to help me with my son. I graciously accepted, at which point he realized that I was the slow one. I eventually made my way up this cone with pictures being snapped as I “summitted”, probably so I remember to work out more.
Colorful volcanic ashes called Painted Dunes, Lassen NP, California
I caught my breath to a full view of a snow-capped Lassen Peak and all its surrounding mountains. As I made my way around the crater rim, I noticed a view of another blue lake. Snag Lake was formed when this cone erupted 300 years ago and spewed a small sea of lava (Painted Dunes flow and Fantastic Lava Beds) to dam up the Creek that flowed from the other blue lake near Cinder Cone (Butte Lake). At the foot of the cone are colorful hills of red and orange volcanic ash known as the Painted Dunes. We had a nice picnic at Butte Lake afterwards, while watching kayakers and canoes row by. Looking at my pictures now, I realize again that sometimes pictures just don’t do justice to what stands before you. Or I need a better photographer.
Trail into the middle of Cinder Cone - Lassen Peak peeking
in the background, Lassen NP, California
At the top of the cone were two trails encircling the two rims of Cinder Cone. The two rims were formed by two different eruptions. Another trail also goes down to the inside of the crater. All these trails are covered with black loose lava rocks called scoria. I went as far as the middle crater and let my husband push on to the gut of the crater with two of my boys. It's amazing what those boys can do when something interests them. I watched them from my spot at the middle crater rim taking in the view of a snow-capped mountain peaking over the crater rim and enjoying the view of beautiful yellow flowers that have taken root all over this stark landscape.
We arrived at Butte Lake at 10:30 am after going through a 6-mile unpaved gravel road. We did not have any trouble making it in with our sedan on this clear day. If possible, I would recommend arriving earlier. The “walk” up the cinder occurs towards the end of the 2 mile outbound hike and it does get hot going up that unshaded, energy-requiring portion. Trekking poles looked like it was helpful to those around us that had them. Parking was easy to find that Saturday morning.Butte Lake Campground is a short walk away from the beautiful blue Butte Lake. We could probably spend the day in this area between the lakes and the many hikes that start in this area.
Trails Map of Butte Lake area, Lassen NP, CA
Practical Information (as of July 2016):
Directions: Entrance to Butte Lake area from Hwy 44
Entrance fee: self serve entrance kiosk $20/car (for 7 days in Lassen NP) or free with Annual National Parks
Hike Distance: about 4 miles roundtrip, loose volcanic rock, unshaded up the cone
Features: Climb a cinder cone to its top, then climb down into its crater, Views of snow-capped Lassen Peak, Painted Hills, Fantastic Lava Beds and the two blue lakes it formed (Butte and Snag Lakes), walk in an active volcanic park
Amenities: flush restrooms, picnic tables, water fountains
Warning: The safety of these adventures are dependent on a variety of factors including but not limited to: terrain, weather, wildlife, hiker skill level, human error, and other foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information provided at the time of publication, we do not assume any liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information provided. As such, we will not be held responsible for any harm, injury, and/or loss that may result. Your personal judgement on the safety of each adventure is required at all times. Please use your own discretion and be safe.
Subway Cave, Lassen National Park, California
Subway Cave is a lava tube - channels formed after a hot molten lava river flows through and drains, leaving a hollow surrounded by cooled, solidified lava rock. Subway Cave is a winding lava tube 1300 foot in length formed less than 20,000 years ago. In it, there are big room-like like structures with high ceilings and large open spaces. The cave floor was rough and uneven. The roof thickness varies from 8 feet to 24 feet. The height of the cave varies from 6 feet to 17 feet. Visibility was zero, it was complete darkness. As we walked in, we reminded ourselves that we were walking where red hot lava used to flow.
Subway Cave Lava Tube, Lassen NP, CA
We got to Subway Cave early (8am) so we were in the cave alone and it sure was dark. Luckily we had a lantern and a flashlight. Towards the end of the cave there was a 1 ½ foot volcanic feature on the ground that looked very much like a popped bubble of molten lava (cooled of course). The temperature in the cave is in the 40Fs so jackets are highly recommended. The parking lot was small but we did not have any trouble getting a spot when we arrived. It was a quick stop, so I imagine it would be fairly quick even if you had to wait for a spot to open up.
1 1/2 foot Lava Bubble at the end of Subway Cave, Lassen NP, CA
We went past many campgrounds in our travels in the Hat Creek area operated by Lassen National Forest. I researched them when I got home and learned that there are many available on a first come first serve basis, with varying levels of amenities at relatively low costs, ($0-$20/night) with discounts for Annual National Parks Pass holders. See website below if interested.
Practical Information (as of July 2016):
Directions: Subway is located near the town of Old Station, 1/4 mile north of the junction of Hwy 44 and 89, across from Cave Campground.
Hike: Less than a mile in distance, uneven ground, cool temperatures, very dark
Features: a short hike into a cold, dark lava cave, see different features of a lava cave from lava "bubbles" to huge great rooms, walk in an active volcanic park
Things to Bring: Jackets, good lightsource (we used an LED lantern and flashlight)
Amenities: pit toilet, water, picnic tables
Brochure: Subway Cave Information
Campgrounds in Hat Creek area: - Lassen National Forest Campgrounds
Warning: All listed adventures come with inherent risks. The information provided is based on personal experience which may or may not be typical. The safety of these adventures are dependent on a variety of factors including but not limited to: terrain, weather, wildlife, hiker skill level, human error, preparation and other foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. We do not assume any liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information provided. As such, we will not be held responsible for any harm, injury, and/or loss that may result. Your personal preparation and judgement on the safety of each adventure is required at all times. Please use your own discretion and always be safe.Share on Twitter Share on Facebook