California Parks


(Bumpass) Hell at Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

In nature's timeline, it wasn't long ago that tourists on vacation just like you and me drove to beautiful northern California parks filled with towering pines and alpine lakes, where they heard a rumbling sound. On May 30, 1914 Lassen Peak burst into eruption. The reawakening volcano climaxed on May 22, 1915 in an enormous mushroom cloud. A great blast rose 7 miles into the stratosphere spewing ash, smoke and steam. As it hurled back to earth, 4 to 5 million trees were crushed in a pyroclastic flow of searing gas.

Today, you can visit Lassen Volcanic National Park to see the path that was carved through the forest by this historic eruption less than 100 years ago. As you snap photos of steam rising out of the rocks, boiling water and bubbling mud, don't drop your cell phone or camera, and by all means don't throw caution to the wind! Bright red signs warn visitors to steer clear of fragile areas where the ground may break and you'll be severely burned.

Welcome to Bumpass Hell! Walkways above a major plume of heated water from an active magma chamber below the earth's surface allow visitors to absorb the smell of hell--on Earth! Sulfuric acid in hot springs at Bumpass Hell smells like rotten eggs but more deadly is the boiling liquid. Hot springs and bubbling water can reach temperatures of 240 degrees F at the surface and up to 465 degrees F toward the magma chamber several miles down.

Tourist hot-spots called Bumpass Hell, Devil's Kitchen, Sulphur Works, Boiling Springs Lake and Hot Springs Valley bring new meaning to "the trip to hell. " It's stinky, yet sweet smelling among the pines; it's hot, yet cold during winter when there's snow. And the colors are unbelievable! Bright colors occur as residue from the hot water and acids that have eroded the ancient lava flows of Mt. Tehama. Blue residue is attributed to manganese, red to iron, yellow to sulfur, and opals and kaolin are common. While better known places such as Yosemite National Park can take your breath away with awe-inspiring vistas overlooking the famed Half Dome, Lassen Volcanic National Park, approx. 75 minutes from 1-5 and Redding, is a dream vacation. It is truly one of California's own 7th Wonders!

Photos: Warning sign in Lassen Volcanic National Park, old black & white photo taken in 1914 captures Lassen volcanic activity, and boiling water splashes up from hot rocks.

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