Have you ever driven from one end of California to the other (northbound or southbound)? While I was driving a lot of miles from Point A to Point B, I learned that ETAs calculated with Google Maps or Waze was only a part of the physical distance that I was covering. What else to cover? I was finding it out while steering my Civic toward the next stop – Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Back in late June through early July, I took a long photography road trip. This is Part 3 of the Road Trip series, and if you haven’t checked out the photos that I took while visiting Mono Lake and/or Lake Tahoe, click here and here to take a look. You will like them.

ON THE WAY TO VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK 

Although the drive from Lake Tahoe to Lassen Volcanic National Park took only a few hours, small mountainous towns appeared worth making a stop for photos. But my tight schedule didn’t allow that.

I was supposed to cross the Canada/US border to backpack in Banff in a few days.

I wish I had more time, but I didn’t.

Lesson learned.

ROAD TO LASSEN PEAK

As soon as I saw Lassen Peak appeared, I had to pull over and take a few shots here. This is the only spot where the peak was clearly seen with the highway.
As soon as I saw Lassen Peak appeared, I had to pull over and take a few shots here. This is the only spot where the peak was clearly seen with the highway.

The road to Lassen Volcanic National Park was not too long of a drive. The low mountain range certainly wasn’t competing for high elevations either. Some small towns certainly looked charming enough for making a quick stop but I kept on driving.

Then Lassen Peak appeared. I immediately pulled over.

From this point on it was either Lassen Peak or Brokeoff Mountain that dominated the park scene. Because it was only late June, these snow-clad mountains made great postcard pictures as they were.

LASSEN VOLCANIC IS FANTASTIC

What I didn’t know about when visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park was its cold temperature at night.

It was great during day as sunny as usual anywhere in California. But once the sun neared the horizon, not so much. The temperature dropped like crazy in Lassen Volcanic National Park, and it demonstrated the reason why there was so much snow everywhere. Well, that is if you stay above 6,600 feet, and major trails to hike are located between the south entrance to Emigrant Pass, which are above that elevation.

Speaking of everywhere, there were so many places that either remained closed, such as Bumpass Hell, or required winter gear to hike, such as crampons and an ice axe. I didn’t even bring my microspikes, so hiking the snow-clad Lassen Peak was out of the question.

Nonetheless, there were a few key spots that I wanted to check out, and Kings Creek waterfalls, Manzanita Lake and Cinder Cone were some of them.

LAKE ALMANOR AND BEYOND

The layers of mountains beyond Lake Almanor look quite elusive as the haze settled in...
The layers of mountains beyond Lake Almanor look quite elusive as the haze settled in…

After passing Lassen Peak parking lot, the whole area opened up and the south side of the park came into view. Lake Almanor and all the adjacent mountains pretty much made up the view.

The layers of the hills and the mountains beyond Lassen Volcanic National Park were just exquisite. It was like I was seeing a gentle slope gradually fading into the abyss of deep water.

The trees, particularly the trees in the foreground, looked like sea plants swaying and waggling in the gentle undercurrent. The light was reaching them but was certainly losing its wonder as it was getting deeper and deeper.

It was taken earlier in the morning. Later when I drove past to get back to the Lassen Peak parking lot, it wasn’t like this at all. I was so glad that I stopped earlier.

MYSTY WATERFALLS

Kings Creek waterfalls were flowing so nicenly that it was quite misty along the creek. I had to wipe off the mist on my lens between shots. Nonetheless the roaring waterfalls were quite scene to witness!
Kings Creek waterfalls were flowing so nicely that it was quite misty along the creek. I had to wipe off the mist on my lens between shots. Nonetheless the roaring waterfalls were quite scene to witness!

King Creek Waterfalls was one of the easiest hikes in Lassen Volcanic National Park, and thankfully, there was not too much of snow to get there from the trailhead. Other than the huge patch near the turnoff where the trail started going downhill along the stream, it was quite a pleasant hike to the falls and back.

The snow fed water was flowing quite nicely. In fact, the volume of the water was so much that I almost didn’t recognize them. Didn’t recognized them based on what I saw while Googling the falls, that is. Although certainly a season of the year one visits makes the difference, I didn’t expect this much volume of water flowing.

And there was no one there. I took my time. Loved the solitude.

SHEER BEAUTY AT SUNSET

Brokeoff Mountain in Laassen Vocanic NP truly looks magnificient at sunset. Tougest and reqarding trail to the summit awaits.
Brokeoff Mountain in Laassen Volcanic NP truly looks magnificent at sunset. Toughest and rewarding trail to the summit awaits.

My plan was to hike Lassen Peak and catch the sunset from the top of it. But, since I couldn’t do it, I decided to stick around near Lake Helen and frame Brokeoff Mountain and the lake together.

As cold and windy as it was, I loved the snow. Wait, let me rephrase it.

I loved the fact that the snow was the integral part of the Lassen Volcanic National Park scene in late June. Just like snow covered Yosemite National Park till late April or early May.

The sunset glow that started falling onto Brokeoff Mountain and Lake Helen was just magical.

MILKY WAY OVER BUMPASS HELL

The Milky Way rose over Bumpass Hell. The air was crisp and near bone chilling. Under the millions of stars I found the best seat to stargaze in the park.
The Milky Way rose over Bumpass Hell. The air was crisp and near bone chilling. Under the millions of stars I found the best seat to stargaze in the park.

I stuck around the area for the Milky Way.

For my Milky Way shots in Lassen Volcanic National Park, I toyed the idea of staying at the Lassen Peak parking lot looking south at Bumpass Mountain. However, considering how open the sky was at the Bumpass Hell parking lot, I ditched the first and drove down to the latter.

It was quite dark, and terrain wise, it was rather difficult to make out the perimeter in the dark. I opted not to venture too far.

The Milky Way crossing the night sky there was quite mesmerizing.

TIME TRAVEL

Not only the stars but also our galaxy have existed for millions and millions years, and as long as our planet existed, even before we were aware, trees, mountains and the stars always existed. We may be gone, but they will stick around as long as our home planet exists.
Not only the stars but also our galaxy have existed for millions and millions years, and as long as our planet existed, even before we were aware, trees, mountains and the stars always existed. We may be gone, but they will stick around as long as our home planet exists.

I wanted to test how light painting would work while shooting the Milky Way there. These tall trees, the only tall trees close to the edge I could find in the dark, were perfect foreground objects.

Usually I don’t appreciate light pollution coming from adjacent towns or cities when I shoot the Milky Way. While there was not much, it was actually adding an extra set of hues to the palette.

No one was around.

It was a cold night, and I had to bundle up.

KINGS CREEK FLOWING

I stared my hike to Kings Creek Falls but soon realized that the abundant amount of water flowing in the creek often steered me off the trail. I couldn't help myself making frequent stops with my camera pointing at it. The water was ice cold but very refreshing. I thought to myself that one can easily spend one afternoon just relaxing and hanging out by the ever-flowing stream of water, if there were no falls to check out.
I started my hike to Kings Creek Falls but soon realized that the abundant amount of water flowing in the creek often steered me off the trail. I couldn’t help myself making frequent stops with my camera pointing at it. The water was ice cold but very refreshing. I thought to myself that one can easily spend one afternoon just relaxing and hanging out by the ever-flowing stream of water, if there were no falls to check out.

Next morning I revisited Kings Creek.

I had no intention of hiking down to the waterfalls. Instead, I had noticed the day before that Kings Creek not too far from the trailhead was flowing quite nicely. So I had told myself that I wanted to come back before heading to Manzanita Lake.

The snow feeding creek water felt quite cold and refreshing in my hands. I had brought my water filter on this trip (because a backpacking trip in Banff was in order) but never thought I’d want to use it before, so I didn’t have it with me at the creek. Oh well…

While ambling up and down the trail, I found this particular spot where I could frame the stream right. But I had to be on the other side of the stream.

Guess I have to jump…

Jumping wasn’t too bad. I got my shots. I jumped back. I swiftly walked back up the trail to return to my car.

On my way back another spot caught my eye, so I side tracked and started setting up my would be last shot at the creek. That was when I realized that the remote control for the wireless trigger was missing.

I panicked at first.

I looked everywhere. In my ThinkTank waist pouch, where it should’ve been in the first place. Not there.

In my pockets. Not there.

In my day pack. Not there…

Where the hell is it?

Then, it dawned on me. It must’ve flown out of my ThinkTank waist pouch when I jumped back. So, I hastily retraced my steps and returned to the spot.

I was quite frantic. My concern was what if it fell in the water. Well, technically it would’ve been long gone in the flowing water by then if that was the case. The end of long exposure.

I looked everywhere.

I didn’t see it.

I kept looking…

Based on the trajectory of me jumping back over the stream and landing on this side, it was possible that the remote might’ve flown out and fallen into the water.

Ugh…

Really?

Then, I saw it.

It was stuck in this dirt hole where no grass was growing. I didn’t see it for some time because the color of the remote is black. It was blended in quite well.

I picked it up. Other than the fact that it collected some dirt on the side, it was fine.

A sigh of relief enthused.

MIRROR LIKE

On this lovely day, Lassen Peak was perfectly mirrored in Manzanita Lake. The sky was as blue as the summer sea, the trees were as green as the newly mown lawn, and the water was as clear as crystal.
On this lovely day, Lassen Peak was perfectly mirrored in Manzanita Lake. The sky was as blue as the summer sea, the trees were as green as the newly mown lawn, and the water was as clear as crystal.

When I took a stroll around the lake, I noticed that there were some openings where I could set up my camera for the shot of Lassen Peak and its reflection in the water. But either tree branches or shrubs always partially got in the way.

And I didn’t like it.

I walked back and forth for a few more minutes, pondering what I should do, while wondering if there was another opening with a clear view that I might’ve missed.

I didn’t see any. So, I decided to do what other photographers would do to get the shot.

I fetched my sandals from my car and marched into the water with my tripod and the camera.

adventure, adventure photography, creeks, green, lake, landscape, landscape photography, Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park, long exposure, Manzanita Lake, nature, nature photography, outdoors, plants, road trip, rocks, snow, travel, travel photography, trees, water, wilderness
Doing exactly what any photographers would do to get the shot!

I got my shots, and it was time to get out of the water.

LASSEN VOLCANIC IS ANOTHER PLANET

My next stop where I was really excited about was Cinder Cone. Although I didn’t know what else to expect to shoot other than Cinder Cone, I was quite determined to get there.

After about an hour drive eastbound, I reached the off-road path to the Cinder Cone area. There was a lake called Butte Lake, at the end of the dirt road, where visitors could launch their boats.

The trailhead to Cinder Cone was located near the launching pad. When I got there I saw a couple of cars already parked, but I was not sure if all of the owners of the vehicles went hiking.

The day was waning fast. I put my hiking shoes on and headed for the cone.

This 4-mile round trip trail was well marked. First, the Fantastic Lava Bed on the left of the trail sort of greeted me. But the dirt bank was so high that I didn’t see anything unless I would climb it.

As I was 2/3 of the way in, I ran into a couple returning from the cone. We exchanged a quick hello, and I continued my way.

DOUBLE RIM AT SUNSET

The sunset view of Lassen Peak as well as Brokeoff Mountain from the over 360 years old cinder cone volcano was quite delightful. No single soul accompanied me while enjoying the magic hour. I almost stayed there for the Milky Way, but the wind started picking up and the fact that I didn't bring any extra layers didn't help either. I opted for the Butte Lake and descended the cone once it was getting dark.
The sunset view of Lassen Peak as well as Brokeoff Mountain from the over 360 years old cinder cone volcano was quite delightful. No single soul accompanied me while enjoying the magic hour. I almost stayed there for the Milky Way, but the wind started picking up and the fact that I didn’t bring any extra layers didn’t help either. I opted for the Butte Lake and descended the cone once it was getting dark.

The Cinder Cone is an interesting ash cone to say the least. As I was getting close to the cone, the dirt turned into ashes, which was hard to walk in, like walking in sands. But the worst part was that the ‘trail’ continued diagonally all the way up to the top of the cone. It wasn’t difficult but definitely strenuous because it was hard to walk in it to begin with, and I was gaining elevation rather quickly.

Technically the gain itself isn’t much – under 900 feet. But the way that you have to go up would exhaust you. And it tired me out. But, the view from the top, which is just above 6,900 feet, was worth all the heavy huffing and puffing.

The view of Lassen Peak definitely worth mentioning. Especially I timed it right that the sunset was quite close, but still I had enough time to walk around the crater and scout the spots.

It was quite an overwhelming feeling to see both Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain that far again, as I was just near them a few hours ago. And here I was trying to capture the double rim of the Cinder Cone with them in the background.

LAST RAY OF THE SUN

As the sun was setting over the ridge line of Prospect Peak, the last ray of the sun was slowly sweeping across the south rim of Cinder Cone. In a distance, Fairfield Peak, Brokeoff Mountain and Lassen Peak were already sinking into the layer of the dusk... What was warm and calm was soon swallowed up by the nippy and dark air.
As the sun was setting over the ridge line of Prospect Peak, the last ray of the sun was slowly sweeping across the south rim of Cinder Cone. In a distance, Fairfield Peak, Brokeoff Mountain and Lassen Peak were already sinking into the layer of the dusk… What was warm and calm was soon swallowed up by the nippy and dark air.

Because it was a double rim cone, I wanted to capture that from inside. As the sun was setting over Prospect Peak, I found a spot where I was able to frame both Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain (and other peaks) and also the inner rim while catching the sun right before it disappeared.

WHEN MOUNTAINS ARE PAINTED IN PINK

As the sun disappeared behind Prospect Peak, the remaining peaks surrounding Cinder Cone slowly started painting themselves in pink as if on cue. For how long though. Soon they surrendered themselves at nightfall and joined the rest of the world that was sinking deeply into the murkiness.
As the sun disappeared behind Prospect Peak, the remaining peaks surrounding Cinder Cone slowly started painting themselves in pink as if on cue. For how long though. Soon they surrendered themselves at nightfall and joined the rest of the world that was sinking deeply into the murkiness.

Once the sun was completely disappeared behind Prospect Peak, I walked along the inner rim. I found another spot and pointed my camera south.

The sky was slowly getting stained in pink as the rest of the world started slowly sinking into dark.

I really liked how the inner rim was shaped. In fact, I liked the fact that it felt like I was visiting another planet.

So desolate.

So remote.

I wanted to stick around here for the Milky Way, but it was getting chilly. I had a windbreaker but didn’t have food on me. It would’ve been interesting to see our galaxy here, but I had no choice but to pack up and head back before it got too dark.

IN THE COMPANY OF NAUTICAL TWILIGHT

It was getting dark, and yet Lassen Peak still brooded over the forests. Soon it would also fall into darkness. But then again, it would welcome the night sky for the stars to come out as it did for the last 27,000 years.
It was getting dark, and yet Lassen Peak still brooded over the forests. Soon it would also fall into darkness. But then again, it would welcome the night sky for the stars to come out as it did for the last 27,000 years.

Before heading down the cone though, the after sunset glow that was illuminating Lassen Peak stopped me. This is what I love about the Blue Hour.

I took my time for the shot. I think it turned out alright.

MAGICAL NIGHT AT THE LAKE

The Milky Way rose over Butte Lake and beyond. Our galaxy looked quite brighter than usual, maybe because it was so dark in this side of the park. The reflections of the sparkling stars in the lake was simply magical.
The Milky Way rose over Butte Lake and beyond. Our galaxy looked quite brighter than usual, maybe because it was so dark in this side of the park. The reflections of the sparkling stars in the lake was simply magical.

Once it got completely dark, I decided to take a night walk around Butte Lake to see how I could frame the Milky Way.

Also, because it was around the time when June Boötids meteor shower was supposed to happening, I was hoping to catch some of meteors over the lake… Reflections would’ve been nice.

I saw none.

This meteor shower has a ZHR of 1 or 2. In other words, only 1 or 2 meteors are seen per hour (although it was seen more than 50 to 100 in the past) and it is the reason why this meteor shower is known very unpredictable, let alone not as popular as, for instance, Perseids.

This part of Lassen Volcanic National Park is insanely remote. There were not any towns or cities. Less light pollution.

The Milky Way looked brighter here.

THE ONE THAT FLEW OVER ME

They were supposed to peak on this night. Or the night after, was it...? The unpredictable June Boötids. Where was the meteor shower? Oh, well, there isn't even a 'shower.' 1 or 2 per hour isn't really much, is it? Dry as California's drought. And then, bam! There was one that flew over me. Hello, stranger! Guess it's time to say good night!
They were supposed to peak on this night. Or the night after, was it…? The unpredictable June Boötids. Where was the meteor shower? Oh, well, there isn’t even a ‘shower.’ 1 or 2 per hour isn’t really much, is it? Dry as California’s drought. And then, bam! There was one that flew over me. Hello, stranger! Guess it’s time to say good night!

When I got back to my car, I looked up and saw the Milky Way stretched across the sky into which these tall trees shot up. I really dig these shots – Milky Way and the trees. So, I set up my camera for one last shot of the night.

Then, I caught one! I caught a June Boötids meteor.

Just like that!

CODA

Lassen Volcanic National Park offered so much more than what I anticipated. And I didn’t even get to hike all the trails and see all the sights there were. Of course, my time there was quite limited, so it would’ve been quite difficult to choose (although Bumpass Hell was definitely one of the trails I wanted to hike).

It is definitely a national park that I want to go back to. Lassen Peak still remains on my list to hike. One thing that I was definitely not prepared for was its temperature, and I will keep that in mind for future planning.

My brief but excursion to Cinder Cone was quite satisfying, but the thought of shooting the Milky Way at the top of it still lingers. I’ll definitely look into that next time.

Have you been to Lassen Volcanic National Park? What is your favorite spot(s) in the park to visit? Have you hiked Bumpass Hell and/or Lassen Peak? How about Brokeoff Mountain? Did you like Manzanita Lake and a short hike around it? 

Thanks for reading.

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