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With mounds of snow in the Northern California mountains, adventurers have to get creative to find new ways to get outdoors during the wintertime. There is one adventure in Lassen Volcanic National Park that may be the most underrated winter experience in NorCal. And it’s FREE!
From January 7 to March 25, Lassen Volcanic National Park will be offering free ranger-led snowshoe hikes every Saturday and Sunday. Snowshoes are provided for everyone who attends, asking only a $1 donation for maintenance fees. The snowshoe hike will be led by an experienced park ranger and will cover around 2 miles of terrain in the park known for its active volcanoes, and you’ll get to learn a lot about the park in its winter setting.
“The snowshoe walks started in the early 1980s, and basically we just want to get folks out there to learn how to snowshoe,” explained park ranger Shanda Ochs. “Typically, if we have enough snow and the conditions are good we’ll take people on a route that goes off trail through the forest. It’s sort of like the wilderness, and it gets people away from the more populated area of the park road.”
The hike begins at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center (the south entrance of the park) and the route will be based on the weather and conditions of the snow. Once you receive your snowshoes, you’ll be informed on how to properly put them on your feet and get a chance to practice roaming around in the snow.
During snowy conditions, you’ll likely trek through the woods to get inside information on the hydrothermal activity of the park and spectacular views of Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain. If the snowpack is sparse, you may just hike to Sulpur Springs on the closed park highway. Either way, you’ll likely feel the brunt of the exercise at nearly 6,000 feet.
Much like any Lassen activity in the winter, the status and route of the ranger-led hike is dependent on the weather. It may be snowing and cold, it may be warm and sunny, but either way, you’ll get a great education on the National Park from an experienced guide in an uncrowded winter setting.
When Lassen turns into a snow-covered winter wonderland, many of the summer visitors to the park opt for different adventures at lower elevations. But there’s something about braving the snow (in a cautious manner) that gives you a truly isolated wilderness experience. When you take a ranger-led snowshoe hike in the park, you’re bound to be inspired to venture on your own in the future.
“Walking in a single file line with a ranger at the helm, there comes a point when you start to feel like a team of baby ducklings following their mother,” said Ross Lawrence following his ranger-led snowshoe hike. “For that reason I look forward to going out on my own next time. Getting the full Lassen experience means capturing a sense of isolation, peace and wilderness. On my next outing I plan to brave the backcountry slopes.”
The snowshoe hikes begin every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 pm and last about two hours, depending on the route and weather. The only way to sign up is to register in person at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center on the day of the hike. Anyone interested is encouraged to call the visitors center at (530) 595-4480 to check weather conditions and the status of the hike. All ranger-led snowshoe hikes could be cancelled during the event of extreme weather conditions. The hikes are open to anyone over the age of 8-years-old, and of course, please wear winter clothes on the hike.
For more information on Lassen Volcanic National Park’s ranger-led snowshoe hikes, go here.