Hikers enjoy lunch on top of Cinder Cone
Hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park involves risk. Lassen's continually changing landscape, high elevation, and dramatic seasons present numerous considerations for hikers. From climbing rocky slopes, crossing swift streams, and traversing spring snow patches, the best way to ensure your safety is to be prepared.
To improve your safety when hiking at Lassen consider the following:
- Print or download an Explore Safely trail guide
- View or print the list of popular day hikes including level of difficulty, elevation, distances, and approximate time
- Read about selected hikes in the park newspaper, Peak Experiences
- Learn more about trails and current trail conditions, especially May through July
- Review the hiking preparedness list (see below)
- Take the Explore Safely Trail Challenge or learn about safety measures identified by challenge participants
Explore Safely Trail Guides
The following guides provide information for day hikers including trail descriptions, special considerations, and preparedness information. Check back soon for new guides for Kings Creek, Brokeoff Mountain, Bumpass Hell, and Twin Lakes Loop trails.
We recommend that you read or print the trail guide before you begin your hike.
Visitor Identified Safety Measures
Participants of the annual Explore Safely Trail Challenge have identified a number of measures that can help improve safety while hiking. Note that the type of risk and safety concerns vary greatly with the wide variety of terrain, elevation, and features found at Lassen.
- Carry sunscreen, bug repellant, extra layers, plenty of water, and food
- Wear appropriate footwear (good tread, ankle support, closed toe)
- Know your abilities: take brakes often, slow down on hills, plan your time, pay attention to how you feel
- Stay on trail in hydrothermal areas: watch children, note when handrails are absent, maintain a safe distance
- Consider special considerations for hiking with children: pay close attention in hydrothermal areas and around lakes, creeks, waterfalls, and bridges; share route plans in case they get lost; know each individual's abilities
- Let someone know where you are going and when you will return: hiker logs at visitor centers, messages on social media, voicemail, e-mail, etc.
- Be aware of and prepared for wildlife and act appropriately: watch out for bees and bears, do not feed animals, do not approach wildlife
- Yield to uphill hikers: step off the side of the trail to let others pass
- Be aware of weather conditions: check conditions before you start your hike, be mindful of items blowing off windy peaks, watch for sudden changes in weather, descend immediately at signs of a storm, know what to do in case of lightning
Black bear near Cold Boiling Lake
NPS Photo by Laurie Carroll
Be Bear Aware
Black bears have been sighted frequently in this area. Avoid potential bear encounters on the trail by making noise to make your presence known. Be particularly careful near streams, and when vegetation or terrain limits visibility. Learn more about what to do in the event of a bear encounter below or read the bear safety bulletin for more information including food storage and bear spray use.
If You Encounter a Bear
- Do not run! Bears can easily outrun you. Running may cause an otherwise non-aggressive bear to attack.
- If the bear is aware of you but has not acted aggressively, slowly back away.
- If the bear is unaware of you, keep out of sight and detour behind or downwind of the bear.
- Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you, they usually just want to be left alone.
- Pick up small children immediately and stay in a group.
- Do not drop your pack! This teaches the bears how to obtain human food and often results in the death of a bear.
- Do not climb a tree. All black bears can climb trees.
If a Bear Approaches or Charges You
- Do not run! Most bear attacks result from surprise encounters when the bear is defending their young or a food source, such as a carcass.
- Bear experts generally recommend standing still until the bear stops and then slowly backing away.
- If you are attacked, do not play dead – fight back. Concentrate your kicks and blows on the bear’s face and muzzle. If you have bear spray, aim directly at the bear’s face.
- Stay calm. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging, and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also act defensively by woofing, growling, snapping their jaws or laying their ears back.
Lightning position: put your feet together, crouch, and don't touch long conductors
Summer is the peak season for one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena - lightning. In the United States, an average of 54 people are reported killed each year by lightning. Lightning is a serious danger that is best mitigated by one key action: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! Unfortunately for day hikers and backpackers, seeking shelter is not always possible. Here are a few tips to increase your safety while outdoors:
- Time visits to avoid severe weather - know the forecast.
- Immediately seek a safer area if you hear thunder.
- Avoid hiking on high ridge lines or exposed areas at elevation if thunderstorms are in the area (e.g. Lassen Peak, Brokeoff, Cinder Cone, and Mt. Harkness trails.)
- If caught in the open, do not shelter in/under trees, bushes, or other tall objects.
- Spread a hiking group out at least 50 feet between people.
- Look for ravines or depressions and assume the lightning position (squat down on the soles of your shoes) in one of the depressions.
- Do NOT lay on the ground, rather crouch on your feet.
- If a member of your party is struck by lightning, prompt rescue breathing is often very successful in reviving an injured person. Call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.
Learn more about lightning safety at http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/ or download a lightning risk management publication.