Bumpass Hell… What the heck is that? I had no idea that my wife and my daughter had planned this side trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park while we were visiting in Chico, California last week, but I am glad that they did- we had a great time!
The area that we visited was named after Kendall Vanhook Bumpass who, in 1865 walked on this active geothermal area and broke through the thin crust on the surface and burned his leg bad enough that it eventually had to be amputated. The temperatures in these pools range from 191f degrees to the highest recorded 322f (161C) It’s interesting to note that there were only two volcanic eruptions in the contiguous US in the 20th century- Mount St, Helens (May 18 1980) and Mt.Lassen (May 22 1915) It was apparent when we visited Bumpass Hell that there is still some geothermic or volcanic activity happening here!
The Bumpass Hell trailhead sits at approximately 8000+ ft and this area gets a lot of snow. Because of that, the trail doesn’t usually open until July 4 and closes when snow and ice make the trail too dangerous. It had snowed a week before we arrived and there was quite a bit of snow and ice (and mud!) on the trail
Our day started in Chico, where we drove 80 miles (1.5 hours) through Red Bluff, then east to the small town of Mineral which is right outside the national park. The entrance fee is $20, but there was nobody at the gate, so I am glad I had spare cash on me!
The first hint of what was just a mile or so inside the gate, Sulphur Works is a boiling spring that is literally right next to the road. As you would imagine, the steam that rises here smells strongly of sulphur!
There are quite a few crystal clear lakes along the road that are just beautiful. I’d love to camp alongside one of these!
On to the trailhead! The trail is 1.5 miles each way (3 miles total) and is a fairly easy hike, just watch out for mud, snow (or even worse) ice! Hiking boots and poles are highly recommended, although I was one of those tourists with tennis shoes!
About halfway to the pools there is an area of rocks and a type of low growing manzanita bush that looks like it’s in a park .Just beautiful.
The chipmunks were busy sunning themselves on the rocks. They look nice and fat for the winter and they are not afraid of humans walking near them!
After 1.5 miles, you arrive at the overview of Bumpass Hell! There’s a trail leading off to the right that takes you down to the pools. This was very muddy when we hiked this, so you want to watch your step!
Once you are down in the valley, there is a catwalk system installed so you can walk up to these boiling sulphur springs, mudpots, steam vents and fumaroles safely… you don’t want to suffer the same way that Bumpass did!
Walking along the catwalks was very interesting and somewhat primeval. The air even smelled primeval, but like I told my wife, it’s all part of the package. It just wouldn’t be the same if the air didn’t have that sulphurous smell! My daughter disagrees and says the smell is horrible…
It was a very fun day with the family, but it’s time to drive the 80 miles back to Chico and have dinner at Sierra Nevada Brewing! (and a nice pint!)
If you’re ever traveling through the Chico, Red Bluff, Mt Lassen area, I’d suggest a stop at Bumpass Hell and Sierra Nevada Brewery!