The trail to Bumpass Hell has been newly renovated in 2018 and 2019 and features improved overlooks and a wider, smoother pathway between the Bumpass Hell parking area and Bumpass Hell basin. This 3-mile round-trip trail requires about two hours to complete and is family friendly (dogs are not allowed however). Children should be carefully monitored on the trail, as going off-trail can be highly dangerous due to the boiling temperatures of the mudpots and pools - see "History" below for the warning tale of the man who "discovered" this area and lost a leg in the process!
The trail is largely boardwalk and gravel and is well-signed along the route. It is not, however, wheelchair-accessible, and can be slippery due to snow and ice at this high elevation. The plentiful vistas along the route, including views of Brokeoff Mountain, Mount Diller, Lake Hellen, Lassen Peak, and the thermal pools themselves, make this one of the more popular day-hikes in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It is advisable to arrive at the parking area before noon, as it fills up quickly.
Due to its high elevation, the trail receives significant snowpack and is closed through the spring, generally opening by July 4. It is advisable to telephone the Visitor Center prior to your trip to ensure roads and trails are open and accessible: (530)595-4480. Restrooms and water fountains are located at the trailhead but are not found along the route.
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"The descent to Hell is easy." These were the words of Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, a prospector, cowboy, and early settler who discovered Bumpass Hell in 1864. On his first accidental visit to the area, Bumpass broke through the earth's crust and burnt his foot in the 198-degree mudpots beneath it. Upon returning home, he claimed to have been to Hell.
Soon afterward, a local newspaper editor solicited Bumpass to take him to the discovered location. On this trip, however, Bumpass was not so lucky. He again broke through the surface and burned his leg so badly it had to be amputated.
Prior to the arrival of European settlers in the region, the area surrounding Lassen National Volcanic Park was inhabited seasonally by several native tribes including the Maidu, Yahi, Yana, and Atsugewi. These tribes believed that the mountain was full of fire and anticipated its eruption. Mount Lassen was later named after a Danish blacksmith named Peter Lassen in the 1830s. By 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt declared Lassen Peak and Cinder Cone U.S. National Monuments.
Lassen National Volcanic Park features all four types of volcanoes found on earth: composite, cinder cone, plug dome, and shield. The area has been volcanically active for approximately 3 million years and remains active today, as demonstrated by the mudpots, steam vents, and hot springs seen at Bumpass Hell and other locales within the park. Lassen Peak last erupted between 1914 and 1917, with a peak explosion on May 22, 1915 that cast volcanic ash as far as 200 miles away and devastated nearby areas. Today, scientists affirm that it is not a matter of whether Lassen will erupt again - but when.