Of all of the national parks located in the United States, Lassen Volcanic National Park is quite possibly the least-known and under-appreciated. Located in Northern California, about an hour drive East of Redding, it is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true! In the Summer, a visitor can enjoy hiking, fishing and wilderness camping. In the Winter, enjoy snowshoeing, sledding, snowboarding and skiing.
It is named for Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world. Volcanic activity continues on the peak with hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles. Lassen Park is one of just a few areas on Earth where all four types of volcanoes are found. Lassen Peak is the southern-most volcano in the Cascade range.
One of the park’s most beautiful natural attractions is Lake Helen. Lake Helen is a tarn, or glacial lake. It was created when glacial movement left behind a cavity that eventually filled with water.
The sapphire blue color of the water is caused by its mineral content.
The lake is an incredible 110 feet deep! The photo below was taken from the summit of Lassen Peak.
The lake is named after Helen T. Brodt who was the first white woman to climb to the summit of Lassen Peak. She and her husband, Aurelius W. Brodt, were part of the third party to reach the summit. The party was lead by Major Pierson B. Reading, who named the lake after Helen. She may have actually seen the above view of the lake when she reached the summit.
Sitting at an elevation of 8162 feet, Lake Helen is covered with snow and ice the majority of the year.
This glacial lake receives an incredibly large amount of snow in the Winter. It is usually covered with a snowpack of up to 20 feet deep, with up to 30 foot tall snowdrifts! As can be expected, the lake waters are incredibly cold with year-round temperatures ranging from 35 to 40 degrees F.
A visitor to the park can see the lake from the 29 mile drive through the park. But to really enjoy the beauty of the lake, you have to stop and walk the shoreline.
Swimming is allowed on the lake, but don’t forget how cold the water is!
The area that later became Lassen Volcanic National Park was protected when it was designated the Lassen Peak Forest Preserve. It was later declared a U.S. National Monument in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt. It became a national park in 1916.