Lassen Volcanic National Park

By Melissa Wynn

Lassen Peak began erupting in 1914, blew its top proper in 1915, and rumbled periodically until 1921. This activity forever changed the surrounding area and created the mystical playground we all enjoy. Lassen Volcanic was established as a national park August 9, 1916 to preserve for posterity the rare and curious, active volcanic landscape.

Today the mountain is quietly stewing and visitors from around the globe come every year to explore the mysteries of Lassen Volcanic National Park’s 106,000 acres. The western portion of this amazing study in geology features great lava pinnacles, huge mountains created by lava flows, jagged craters, and steaming sulphur vents.  The bubbling mud pits of Bumpass Hell remind us that the volcano is merely resting as the heat just below the surface boils the earth. Snow banks persist year-round and beautiful meadows are spread with wildflowers. No wonder the ancient natives revered this as such a sacred place.

This mystical area was a meeting place for four Native American groups, Atsugewi, Yana, Yahi, and Maidu. Due to harsh winter conditions, high elevations, and seasonally migrating deer populations, Lassen Volcanic National Park was not conductive to year-round living. These Native American groups camped here, like we do, in the summer, hunting and gathering in this beautiful area shaped by volcanic fire and glacial ice. Basket weavers rather than potters, our ancient friends left few artifacts other than stone points, knives, and a few metals. Please remember that any artifacts are for all to enjoy and should never be removed from the park. Follow the wise ways of those of old and leave no trace of your presence when you leave this natural wonder.

The eastern part of our friendly neighborhood volcanic park is a vast lava plateau sitting more than a mile above sea level. Places you can find small cinder cones include Fairfield Peak, Hat Mountain, and Crater Butte. Blanketed with towering pine and fir, this breathtaking area is dotted with small secluded lakes. A quiet paddle on Shadow Lake offers an unrivaled view of the mystical, barren and often snow draped Lassen Peak. Manzanita Lake is a local favorite for cabin camping and summer reunions.

Warner Valley, marking the southern edge of the Lassen plateau, features many steaming hot spring areas – Boiling Springs Lake, Devils Kitchen, and Terminal Geyser are among the most popular. A rainbow of color, created by volcanic minerals, circles the shoreline of Boiling Springs Lake creating a sight right out of a fairy tale storybook. A favorite mode of exploration for this seemingly unreal attraction is by horseback. Guided equestrian adventures are available by reservation from the stables at Drakesbad Guest Ranch, Lassen Volcanic National Park’s premier lodging experience.

As their website boasts Drakesbad Guest Ranch has been In business continually since June 20, 1900, (and ever since)hospitality has been the name of the game in “Hot Springs Valley”. The vision and passion of the founding family, the Alexander Siffords of Susanville, Drakesbad (so named by guests in 1908) is the rarest of treasures in the National Park system. For over 60 years and through two generations the Sifford family owned the Drakesbad Guest Ranch and welcomed visitors from all over California and the world. It began as a healthful retreat, remote and far away, requiring arduous physical exertion to reach, tenacity to be reclaimed from its winter dormancy each season and daily, even hourly, tender love and appreciation by guests, caretakers and stewards alike. At the turn of the twentieth century camping cost 25 cents a night, meals were 50 cents, a bath in the hot springs pool was 25 cents and pasturing live stock 5 cents: some things have changed over the years but not the attention given to customer service or protection of the environment. Before he passed away in 1992, Roy Sifford (pictured at left) could claim that he had spent at least some time in Drakesbad every year but one of his 97 years (the year he was “a doughboy over there” during WWI). His passion and love of Drakesbad and desire to see it carry on as the guest ranch he loved moved him to deed the property to the US government for inclusion in Lassen Volcanic National Park in 1958. His story, lovingly told to Mr. Lester Bodine and published in the book, “Sixty Years of Siffords at Drakesbad” is a story of pioneer determination, native environmentalism and love of friends, family and the place.

Since its inclusion into Lassen Volcanic National Park in 1958, Drakesbad has only been managed by three authorized National Park Concessioners. The Lassen Park Company under the direction of Don Hummell was in charge for the first eighteen years, followed by a short run by U.S. National Resources. For the past thirty years the Koeberer family under the company name of California Guest Services has managed Drakesbad Guest Ranch, and all other Lassen concession operations.”

Reservations for lodging, dining, horseback riding and soaks in the giant hot springs pool are available online at or call toll free 1-866-999-0914.

Please note, phone reservations are only taken Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10AM to 3 PM.

For more information on Lassen Volcanic National Park, please visit