A view of Lassen Peak from Kings Creek meadow
Lassen Volcanic National Park will close its landmark Lassen Peak Trail and parking area Saturday night through Aug. 31 for multiple helicopter rock-hauls.
The work is part of the “Reach the Peak” project, an ambitious, 5-year, $2.4 million effort to restore and rehabilitate the popular trail to the 10,457-foot summit. California Conservation Corps and Lassen park crews have spent the past month selecting rocks from the Hat Creek Quarry to be airlifted to the mountain, park officials said.
Lassen Peak Trail will be open to the summit until 8 p.m. Saturday. During the shut-down, visitors can drive past but not stop along the 2.5-mile stretch between Lake Helen and the Terrace Lake trailhead. Trail status will be updated on the park’s Web site, www.nps.gov/lavo. The closure means no full-moon hike to the peak this month.
The Lake Helen picnic area will remain open during this month’s road restrictions near the peak.
“We have only a short window each summer to really work up there,” said Karen Haner, Lassen’s public information officer.
The federal highway through the park typically closes due to snow around Thanksgiving and didn’t open this year until July 8, thanks to a long, cool spring. The road is usually cleared by mid-June, Haner said.
The rocks will be used to build steps and reinforce retaining walls along the 2.5-mile trail. Helicopters will eventually unload the equivalent of some 60 dump-truck loads of material, she said.
Retaining walls along the peak trail came under scrutiny in July 2009; a 9-year-old Red Bluff boy was killed and his then-13-year-old sister was injured when one of the structures collapsed, sending large rocks rolling.
Plans for the Reach the Peak project were already in the works when Tommy Botell was killed, Haner said. The trail was closed after his death and reopened July 17 of this year.
Reach the Peak goals
In addition to improving retaining walls, Reach the Peak also plans to:
- – Restore the upper 1.3 miles of the trail to its original width of four feet and widen the lower 1.2 miles to six feet
- – Install a vault evaporator toilet halfway up the trail
- – Restore turnouts on switchbacks to accommodate groups or for hikers to rest
- – Install a summit register for hikers to sign
- – Mark a trail to the true summit
- – Remove the park’s radio repeater
- – Create an estimated 5.5-mile wilderness trail linking the Manzanita Creek Trail to the peak’s parking area.
The popular trail to the summit will get a facelift during the next five years.
The parking area at the Lassen Peak Trail will be closed for use as an equipment staging area during eight days of helicopter operations.
Money for the project comes primarily from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (federal stimulus funds), entrance and camping fees, and in partnership with the Lassen Park Foundation.
“The most exciting aspect of this is that after such a long time, the trail is going to be given the attention it needs,” Haner said. “There will also be a new interpretive effort using technology and updates of signage up there. Hopefully as visitors hike to the top, they’ll learn more of the peak’s story, geology and human connection.”
Reach the Peak should be completed in time for the park’s centennial celebration. Lassen – home to the country’s second most recent volcanic eruption (after Mt. St. Helens) — became a national park Aug. 9, 1916. The peak had a series of eruptions from 1914-1917.
Other park news
Elsewhere in the park this summer, the third and final phase of a federal highway project to repave all 30 miles of Lassen Park Road was completed with a stretch from Dersch Meadows to Manzanita Lake. Steve Manning Construction of Redding was awarded the contract for the second and third paving projects, Haner said. Hat Creek Construction completed the first phase several years ago.
“The road had not been overlayed with new pavement for over 30 years, so it was in darn need of it,” Haner said.
Federal stimulus money paid for the final portion of paving, estimated between $7.5 million and $9.5 million, she said.
Prime time to visit
Late July and August are the best times to visit Lassen, Haner said. All trails and campgrounds are open, wildflowers are blooming, creeks are raging, and temperatures are in the 70s and 80s, with lingering patches of snow.
“It’s well worth the effort to come up,” she said.
The park has seen plenty of bears this year, with more sows having triplets than usual. Sadly, a cub was killed by a vehicle a few weeks ago in a construction area, Haner said, adding that the bear will be stuffed for an exhibit.
Manzanita Lake is a popular camping area near the park’s northwest entrance.
A scenic view from the Lassen Peak Trail.
The boiling mudpots, steam and fumaroles on the Bumpass Hell hike are a fascinating feature of the park.
For north state residents, Lassen’s location makes it ideal for a day trip or a weekend camping excursion. The park’s northwest entrance is about 50 miles east of Redding along Highway 44. The southwest entrance is 45 miles east of Red Bluff along Highway 36.
A pass – good for seven days – costs $10 per vehicle. The best deal for Redding-area residents is a $25 annual pass, which covers entrance fees at both Lassen and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area for a year.
Visit www.nps.gov/lavo to learn more.
Candace L. Brown has been a newspaper and magazine journalist since 1992. She lives in Redding and can be reached at email@example.com.