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Visited: September 3, 2016
Description: Short but steep hike up a 700 ft Cinder Cone volcano
Length: 4 miles
Elevation: 846 feet
Duration: 3 hours
Terrain: Dirt trail to a hell of a gravelly trail
Parking: Butte Lake parking area
Best time to go: Anytime is great but sunrise and sunset makes it even more beautiful
Bring: Camera, water
Located on the northern side of Lassen National Park, you’ll find this hidden gem. Often overlooked by visitors due to its remote location and more popular geothermal counterparts, Cinder Cones provides a unique and challenging trail.
Cinder Cone is believed to have been created by two volcanic eruptions in the 1650’s. This unique volcano is formed when gas-charged lava was shot up into the air from a single vent. The lava was blown apart into tiny pieces and hardened in the air. The lava fell back onto the ground as loose cinders (scoria) which accumulated into a tall oval-shaped cone.
We arrived in the parking lot in the late afternoon. Already exhausted from the hikes this morning, we begrudgingly began the hike. The trail starts off sandy and the climb is pretty gradual. Don’t get excited for the easy start though because it’s just warming you up to what’s about to come…
As you’re hiking along, you’ll see the Fantastic Lava Beds on the left hand side. About 1 mile in, the cinder cone will come into view. Such a bittersweet moment…
From a distance, we knew what we were in for. This wasn’t our first attempt at climbing an extinct volcano. We were not looking forward to reaching the base of the cinder cone…
The climb up the cinder cone was probably the BIGGEST ASS KICKER we’ve ever put ourselves through. Why do we do this to ourselves… Oh yea, because we are badasses who can accomplish anything in our path!
Find your footing and ground it down so that you’re not taking two steps forward, one step back the whole time. We asked hikers who were coming back down how the climb was and they said it took them about an hour to get to the top. AN HOUR?! We didn’t have time to spend an hour climbing up! We decided to set a goal to make it to the top in less than 30 minutes. With a very determined and concentrated pace, we reached the top of peak within 15 minutes! Thighs and legs exhausted and completely breathless, we couldn’t believe how quickly we made it up.
The view was amazing at the top! If you’re up for it, there is an additional trail to the center of the cone. Another hiker said it’s not as bad as you think but we decided against it. We had a looong day already.
As you walk along the rim of the volcano, you’ll catch stunning views of Lassen Peak, Prospect Peak, Snag Lake, the Fantastic Lava Beds and the Painted Dunes! We were most fascinated by the painted dunes due to their nipple-like appearance 😅 (o)(o)
While not real nipples, the painted dunes are actually multi-hued pumice fields formed from oxidation of volcanic ash during a volcanic eruption. The ash on the dune were brightly oxidized when it fell on the lava while it was still hot.
After completing the rim trail, we decided to head back down. It took about 5 minutes with little effort to make it back to the base of the Cinder Cone. It was crazy to see the elevation we climbed earlier dissipate in a matter of minutes.
Cinder Cones is truly an amazing hike that really challenges you. Once you make it to the top, the view is absolutely rewarding. We would definitely recommend making a stop here if you are visiting Lassen!
- Get ready to have your ass kicked… hard!
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