Sunday, June 05, 2016
Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Bumpass Hell contains the largest concentration of geothermal features in Lassen Volcanic National Park. The hike is 3 miles round trip to the start of the boardwalk with 300 ft change in elevation, but add another 0.5 mile if you plan to explore the whole Bumpass Hell basin. Usually, the trail opens July 1st, so I did not expect we could take this trail because we were there on the first and second day of summer, June 21st and June 22nd. However, at the time we were there, the trail just opened, we're lucky!
Warning Sign at the Trailhead because of snow pack (but at the time we were there, trail was already officially opened)
There were still signs of dangerous trail conditions, but we did not approach the trail without permission from the park. The trail was already well defined but just 75% covered with snow, thanks to the park rangers who prepared the trail for visitors.
Snow Covered Slopes to Bumpass Hell
At first, I struggled walking in the snow covered trail since I was used to using trekking poles when hiking in snow covered slopes. I had to sled (or slide) instead of walking when it was downhill, carefully avoiding the rocks or trees. When it was uphill, I had to stick my hiking shoes deep in the snow to avoid from sliding down. Thankfully, after a while, I picked up my confidence of not falling despite having no trekking poles ( forgot to bring the hiking poles ), and the walk had become easier. Also, the trail became more level.
Level Trail to Bumpass Hell Basin
Bumpass Hell could not be viewed from the trailhead which is at the Bumpass Hell Parking lot. Nevertheless, the view at the parking lot is still worth stopping and taking in. After a little over a mile of hike, we had our first glance of Bumpass Hell Thermal Basin. Its colorful and exquisite beauty is probably far from hell.
First View of Bumpass Hell Basin from the trail
From here, the trail descends 100 ft on snow covered slopes. Though it looks pretty much a winter scenery, but this was early summer and the temperature was in the 50's (low 10's in Celsius temperature) already making the hike actually a very comfortable one, not too warm you will be sweating throughout nor too cold to freeze one's sweat when resting.
Downhill Trail to Bumpass Hell Basin
The Bumpass Hell Basin is filled with various steaming pools, multi colored soils (even the snow had some red color ), stained orange, red, brown, yellow and green from sulfur and other minerals.
Warm River at Bumpass Hell Basin
At the basin, Bumpass Hell smelt like rotten eggs from the sulfur. The stream that flows out of the basin is whitish, acidic and warm. Bumpass Hell has 3 of the 4 main types of geothermal features. These are: fumaroles, mudpots and hot springs. Lassen Volcanic does not have geysers unlike in Yellowstone National Park. Geyser requires specific rock type, water depth, and sub-soil temperature which Lassen does not have. What it lacks, Lassen Volcanic compensates by offering a more tranquil and peaceful setting (being California's least visited National Park in the mainland probably).
Big Boiler, Bumpass Hell
At the basin, listening to the geothermal action seemed like listening to Earth's heartbeat. The noise is from the underground magma which heats the groundwater and pushing it up and out, mixing with minerals along the way.
Big Boiler Up Close
Big Boiler has reached 322 degrees Fahrenheit, making it one of the hottest fumaroles in the world. Several wooden boardwalk leads to various point of interest across the basin. There are several large hot pools, from gray to blue in color, some with simmering and bubling water, while others were calm, but you can tell its hotness from the smoke atop the pool.
Turquoise Hot Pool at Bumpass Hell Basin
There are many mudpots in the area with varying viscosity, steaming soil, small water fountains, and noisy fumaroles ( or sulfurous steam vents ). But Bumpass Hell Basin is not about "HOT" at all, in fact, there are some cold water pool right next to the boiling pool.
Reflecting Cold Emerald Water Pool
The Bumpass Hell thermal area speaks of hot and cold combined.
Hot and Cold, Snow and Steam @ Bumpass Hell
Bumpass Hell is one of the best viewable volcanism in action within the US. The last eruption was in 1915, however, the rising fumarole temperatures in the park does not eliminate the possibility of an eruption in this very tranquil and uncrowded National Park.
Hiking Out of Bumpass Hell, with Lassen Peak in the Background