Bumpass Hell Trail into Sulphur Thermal Pool
Lassen Volcano Park
The Bumpass Hell Trail hike into the geothermal pools is spectacular. It’s the closest California gets to Yellowstone geothermal sulphur pools. It’s a 3 mile hike on a rocky but defined dirt trail. Easy for children and most adults. Challenging for older adults with mobility issues. The trails starts at the Bumpass Hell Parking Area. if parking is full, just pull your car to the side and wait until someone leaves or park off the main highway across from Lake Helen in the designated parking zone ( a white limit line for parking).
The trail was named after Kendall Bumpass more than 100 years ago who was taking visitors down into the thermal pools when the ground gave way and severely burned his leg. As you descend into the basin, there are large boardwalks. The purpose is to keep visitors at a safe distance from these thermo pools. Getting off the Boardwalk can be dangerous if the grounds gives way or breaks.
The trail starts from the parking lot and is an easy walk. The first mile is fairly level. As you walk along the tight but safe trail, you will get a spectacular view of the Lassen Park forest and mountains. This portion of the hike is worth the effort alone. Continue along the trail takes you near the “Outlook” that overlooks the entire mountain / volcano range. One mile into the hike, the trail divides left and right ….. you should veer left !!!!!
You shouldn’t even see the “Outlook” that overlooks the mountain (you’ll know it by the 3 sign posters) but if you do, there are a few stairs nearby that rejoin the main trail to the thermo pool or just re-trace 100 feet and rejoin the trail that veers left at the fork.
The next half mile takes you into the basin. The trail will begin to descend more rapidly into the basin and you will begin to smell Sulphur. You’re almost there. Continue along the trail. Eventually you will see the Boardwalk and then you will see steam everywhere. You have arrived.
Lots of small hydro-pools with hot gasses leaking out. The pools generally have a turquoise color from the bacteria that actually live in the Sulphur compound. You will be absolutely fascinated with the sights. Have your camera ready. I have pictures and video below to give you an idea of what you will see.
The hike is 3 miles round-trip and safe for kids who will absolutely love it. However, the trails get narrow at times so you must watch your kids carefully. There were lots of kids on my hike and they were absolutely fascinated !
The return hike is a little strenuous the first quarter mile. Because you are now going uphill on the trail instead of downhill. Take your time. Take lots of rest on the quarter mile slope uphill. Kids didn’t seem to have any problem but some older adults were struggling a little and needed to take frequent breaks going uphill. The remaining mile of trail is level and very easy. It’s just getting past the first quarter mile that’s difficult, so take your time.
I recommend kids age 8 and above take this hike. This hike could be too hazardous or too strenuous for younger kids. The trail is narrow, a little rocky but generally safe. Just don’t let your kids get to far ahead of you. This is not a good hike if you have heart or pulmonary issues or if you have mobility issues.
If you are physically able to take this hike, this should be your number 1 priority. It’s a great outing for the entire family that you will never forget. The entire hike including the return takes about 2 hours. Budget 3 hours if kids are with you.
See Map labeled Bumpass Trailhead for location.