One Track Mind
Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in Lassen Park…
When the weather turns wintry, consider a woodsy adventure. Lassen Volcanic National Park has a special sparkle in the snowy season, and a great way to experience it is on snowshoes or cross-country skis.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing provide a great workout in fresh mountain air. Snowshoes and skis open the possibilities for winter exploration. Without them you’d sink down in the snow and quickly become frustrated trying to get anywhere.
Whether you’re a wobbly Nordic newbie or graceful glider, there are lots of options for cross-country skiing at Lassen Park, with routes ranging from the unplowed main park road to traversing hillsides.
Snowshoeing is easier to master — just strap on the snowshoes and walk. You can traipse along a lake or into the woods. Some of the same places you might have experienced in summer when the park is much busier with visitors have a whole different feel in winter.
For example, Sulphur Works, a busy place right off the park highway in summer, is reached by skiing or snowshoeing for a mile on the unplowed road in winter. “It’s really cool to see the bubbling mud pots in the middle of the snow. It’s kind of a magical experience,” Neilson says.
Lassen Park typically offers ranger-led snowshoe tours at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the southwest entrance. Snow permitting, the program runs on weekends from January through March and includes use of snowshoes, a quick lesson on snowshoeing and a short trek with a ranger. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s uncertain whether the program will be offered this winter; check the Lassen Park website for updates.
Lassen Park doesn’t rent skis or snowshoes, so exploring on your own requires bringing your own gear. North State sports shops sell and rent equipment.
When planning a winter trip to the park, be prepared for winter driving and have chains in your vehicle, Neilson advises. Check the weather report before heading out. Lassen Park’s entrance fee is $10 per vehicle in the winter.
The park can be accessed from the north or south. Following are a few winter routes to consider at each entrance. Find additional options on the Lassen Park website.
NORTHWEST ENTRANCE (off Highway 44 near Manzanita Lake):
– Manzanita Lake Loop, 1.5 miles. Circle the lake and take in the impressive views of Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags. This is a nice, level excursion. Not recommended for skiing. Stay off the ice and snow-covered lake!
– Manzanita Creek, 7.5 miles round trip, 1,550 feet of elevation gain. Cross the footbridge at Loomis Ranger Station and head up the Manzanita Lake campground road to reach the Manzanita Creek Trailhead sign. From there, it’s a gradual climb through the forest.
– Nobles Emigrant Trail, 7 miles round trip, 400 feet in elevation change. This trek includes a little history mixed in with the natural beauty. It covers part of the historic trail taken by many California-bound gold-seekers and pioneers in the 1850s. Begin north of Reflection Lake (across the road from Loomis Plaza) and follow the tree markers on the flank of Table Mountain. The trail heads into thick forest and connects to the unplowed highway at Sunflower Flat. Return via the road or go back the way you came.
– Chaos Crags Trail, 4 miles round trip, 1,360 feet of elevation gain. Cross the footbridge at Loomis Ranger station, turn left and take the road to Chaos Crags Trailhead sign. Follow tree markers to the ridge. Not recommended for skiing.
OUTHWEST ENTRANCE (off Highway 36 near Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center):
– Sulphur Works, 2 miles round trip, 300 feet in elevation change. To check out the roiling, boiling action at Sulphur Works, follow the snow-covered highway north from visitor center for a mile. Stay well away from the extremely hot, acidic water.
– Ridge Lake, four miles round trip, 1,300 feet of elevation gain. Follow the same route to get to Sulphur Works, crossing the bridge just before the hydrothermal area. It’s a steady, steep climb from there to reach the lake.
Lassen Volcanic National Park