The quiet splendor of Lassen Volcanic National Park in Winter is best experienced on snowshoes. Buried under 15 feet of snow, there was no sign of the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center or the main road beside it. We followed the foot prints and ski tracks of those that came before us North on the main road, and were rewarded with magnificent views of snow capped mountains and valleys. The steam vents and boiling mud pots of Sulphur Works were our destination and in the snow offered a rare juxtaposition.
Winter time is especially quiet in the mountains, and with very few other visitors, it’s a wonderful opportunity to soak up the natural soundscape. Although most signs of life diminish in the unwelcoming cold, the bright green pops of color from wolf lichen covered trees surprised me. This type of lichen, abundant throughout the mountains in California, is highly tolerant of freezing temperatures and is thought to remain active in winter. Also keep an eye out for red patches of snow algae. We mistook one such patch for spilled kool-aid.
It’s not advised to go past Sulphur Works without an avalanche beacon or backcountry experience, but there are a couple of other trails you can take in the area. We opted to drive up to the Northwest area of the park to explore Lake Manzanita in the afternoon.
Lake Manzanita at only 5,850 ft had noticably less snow, but the hike around the lake offers wonderful views of Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags. We were short on time because of an approaching storm, but on our next trip I’d like to hike Chaos Crags trail.
Winter conditions are dangerous, so as always, safety should be a primary concern. The roads are well maintained and generally kept clear of snow. I’d still recommend checking with CalTrans and always bring tire chains.