Aviation Support for “Reach the Peak” Project

The fire management staff at Lassen Volcanic National Park organized a successful, accident-free, aviation operation to support the restoration and rehabilitation of the Lassen Peak Trail. The park’s Branch of Fire and Aviation orchestrated an airlift operation including more than 700 sling loads over a period of eight days. The aviation operation transported more than 2.1 million pounds of rock from the peak parking lot to five different locations on the historic trail.

700+ Sling Loads of Rock

helicopter in the sky on a sunny day carrying a sling load of rocks
A helicopter takes a sling load of rock to one of five locations on the Lassen Peak Trail.

“Reach the Peak” is a five-year project that will construct a three-mile access trail from the Manzanita Lake developed area to Lassen Peak, create a new trail around the crater rim on top of the peak, and restore and widen sections of the existing Lassen Peak Trail. The park’s Branch of Fire and Aviation orchestrated an airlift operation which included more than 700 sling loads over a period of eight days in August. The aviation operation transported more than 2.1 million pounds of rock from the peak parking lot to five different locations on the historic Lassen Peak Trail. Before the project was completed the helicopter recorded 46 hours of flight time.

The helibase was located in the Lassen Peak parking lot at 8,200 feet and the highest point to airlift the rock was at 10,000 feet. The rock was organized into three different sizes: rock weighing up to 300 pounds, rock equal to 175 pounds, and a small amount of large individual rocks weighing up to 500 pounds each.

Helicopter support costs included a helicopter manager, helicopter manager trainee, safety officer, three helicopter crew members, and 13 National Park Service trail crew members.

Lassen Peak Trail Restoration

Two bull dozers loading large rocks into buckets
Rock is loaded into large buckets to be transported to the Lassen Peak Trail.

The Lassen Peak Trail is the most popular trail in the park. It allows visitors to hike 2.5 miles to the top of one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world. It is estimated that approximately 25,000 visitors hike the Lassen Peak Trail each season. Repeated off-trail hiking damages soil and rock retaining walls, making trail maintenance increasingly challenging.

The trail project is being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Lassen Park Foundation, Lassen Volcanic National Park fee money, the National Park Trust, National Park Service Repair and Rehab funding, and a Scenic Byway grant.