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Lassen snow

Snowshoeing through southwestern Lassen National Park

Hike Name: Snowshoe hike through southwestern Lassen National Park


Name of area/general location:
Lassen Volcanic National Park and Lassen National Forest


Land Acknowledgement:
This portion of LVNP and LNF is the homeland of the Atsugewi people


Permissible trail uses (dogs, horses, mountain bikes, others):
Pets are not permitted on any hiking trail, in the park backcountry (including snow-covered roads or trails), in any body of water, or inside visitor centers or other park facilities.


Camping Accessibility:  Snow and vehicle camping are allowed. 24-hour heated bathrooms are available. 


Visitor Center:
The Visitor Center is open from 9 AM to 5 PM Wednesday through Sunday between November 1 and April 30. The Center contains a park store, gift shop, and limited food service. The  Center offers a 24-hour lobby with heated restrooms, drinking water, and a 911 telephone. Ranger-led snowshoe walks are offered on weekends from January through March. 


Entrance Fee Information:
Price varies; find more info here.


Description of the area, sights, wildlife, and any key markers on the trail:
Lassen Volcanic National Park (LVNP) is located east of Redding and west of Susanville. LVNP is surrounded by other federal lands managed by the Lassen National Forest (LNF). Together, the LNF and LVNP offer some of the best and most accessible opportunities for snowshoeing in northern California.


The western portion of LVNP is bisected from north to south by State Highway 89. Near Lassen Peak Highway 89 reaches 8,512 feet, making it the highest road in the Cascade Mountains (the Cascades extend north from Lassen to British Columbia). It is not unusual for 40 feet of snow to accumulate on the road and for the snow to last into July, so Highway 89 is closed to vehicles in the winter and only kept plowed free of snow to the southwestern and northwestern entrances to LVNP. In between, LVNP is open exclusively to people who choose to snowshoe or cross-country ski. 


Sulphur Works volcanic geothermal area

 

Bubbling Lassen mud pot | Ryan Henson

Distance: (Easy) 2 miles round-trip


Elevation:
6,700 to 7,000 ft.


From the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, snow-covered Highway 89 offers a perfect snowshoe route. One of the easiest yet most fascinating snowshoe destinations is Sulphur Works, a volcanic geothermal area crossed by Highway 89 that is only one mile south of the Visitor Center after a gentle climb. LVNP has three geothermal areas and Sulphur Works is the most accessible. Sulphur Works is an area filled with holes in the ground that hiss out blasts of steam and bubbling mud. Some parts of the ground are so warm that snow cannot accumulate there. Remember to always maintain a safe distance from hydrothermal features; visitors have been severely burned by hot mud and water.


From Sulphur Works hydrothermal area, snow-covered Highway 89 extends for over 26 miles to LVNP’s northwest entrance at Manzanita Lake where there are also many excellent snowshoeing routes for beginners and experts alike. Along the way there are many places where there is a danger of getting caught in an avalanche, so all backcountry users should carry avalanche gear and know how to use it. Learn more on winter safety here.


McGowan Cross-Country Ski Area 


Distance:
(Easy/Moderate) 5 miles to Nanny Creek one-way


Elevation:
6,080 to 5,110 feet

(1.9 miles north of its intersection with Highway 36 and 2.5 miles south of the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center).


Another great place near Mineral to snowshoe is the LNF’s McGowan Cross-Country Ski Area. The USFS allows pets and visiting the LNF is free to the public. The LNF’s McGowan Cross-Country Ski Area has two access points: one on the north side of Highway 36 (2 miles east of Mineral) and another on the west side of Highway 89.


The USFS offers marked routes across a flat or slightly descending or ascending landscape at McGowan. There are lovely forests of Jeffrey pine, white fir, incense cedar, and other tree species that add a wonderful scent to the winter air. The sulfurous smell of LVNP can only be caught on the occasional breeze. An added feature of the area is that McGowan is adjacent to the Heart Lake Proposed Wilderness, a part of the LNF that CalWild has been trying to protect since the 1970s. 


Road 29N22 on the southern boundary of the Heart Lake Area

Map of LNF | NPS.gov

LNF Road 29N22 becomes a ski and snowshoe route in winter and it serves as the southern boundary of the Heart Lake area. Road 29N22 is accessed from McGowan’s Highway 89 trailhead. Visitors can head west on Road 29N22 for 3 miles one-way to Road 30N16 which accesses McGowan’s Highway 36 trailhead. From where it meets Road 29N22, Road 30N16 descends along Nanny Creek to Highway 36 in another 2 miles. Some people park vehicles on both 36 and 89 so they can do this 5-mile journey one-way by car shuttling.


LVNP and LNF—and especially Heart Lake—are critically important habitat for the elusive and endangered Sierra Nevada red fox. According to the NPS, the red fox likes to use snowshoe and ski tracks. If you observe a red fox while visiting LNF or LVNP, please provide the date, time, location, and photos and GPS location if possible to the NPS. For more information, please visit NPS.gov here.


Potential Road closures or other alerts:
Visiting LVNP and LNF in the snow season involves risk. Learn more on how to prepare before your trip here.

 

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Caution: Please do not walk on ski tracks, because footprints and snowshoe tracks create hazards that make skiing more difficult. Instead, try to snowshoe parallel to the ski track. Using a separate track also ensures snowshoers remain clear of downhill skiers. If you cross paths with a skier, always allow them to pass safely by stepping to the side. In all other cases, yield to those traveling uphill on foot, as they are working harder and have the right of way.