The trail to Bumpass Hell at Lassen Volcanic National Park gently rises along a lightly wooded ridge with views of Lassen and other iconic peaks before plunging into a steaming geologic cauldron. Acidic water boils. Mud belches. The stench of sulfur hangs in the air. We brought the grandsons.
Bumpass Hell (Aug. 5, 2022) – 2.7 miles
Our hike to Bumpass Hell marked a return to the trail after a four-month hiatus. The availability of our two grandsons and son-in-law was a happy accident. They happened to be camping at Eagle Lake as we arrived in Susanville, CA, for a two-day visit to Lassen. An easy-ish hike to the park’s stinky geothermal wonderland seemed ideal for a 5- and 8-year-old.
The boys did great, striding up the gentle grade beneath partly sunny skies. They stuck to the trail and politely tolerated adult explanations of the geology and topography. The oldest grandson particularly enjoyed his first experience with trekking poles. Gramma provided expert guidance.
The boys also respected the boardwalk safety rules without complaint as we entered the geothermal area. The story of Kendall Vanhook Bumpass sobered them right up. The settler lost a leg in 1865 when a thin crust of soil over scalding hot water gave way as he explored the terrain. Park Service signage includes a grim portrait of Mr. Bumpass and an image of a badly burned foot for emphasis.
Back at the visitor center, the presentation of Lassen Junior Ranger badges and purchase of National Park Service passport stamps, a souvenir pressed penny and ice cream rounded out a pretty sweet day on the trail.
We spent much of August 2022 exploring the Pacific Northwest, with a stop at Lassen National Park on the way north from our home on the Coastside.