This Underrated California National Park Is Home To The World's Largest Plug Dome Volcano

Want to experience hydrothermal features similar to Yellowstone without traveling all the way to Wyoming? Then the Lassen Volcanic National Park is the place for you. While you won't find any geysers here, this underrated California national park has more than enough hydro and geothermal activity to blow your mind. 

Not only is this park home to all four types of volcanos that exist in the world, including shield, composite, cinder cone, and plug dome, but you can also summit Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world. But that's not all — as you walk through the park, you can see, smell, and feel the immense underground hydrothermal activity as you walk through alien-like landscapes like Bumpass Hell, Devil's Kitchen, and Boiling Springs Lake.

This park is truly a hidden gem of volcanic geology in the national park system. But what truly makes this place a geothermal wonderland, and what kinds of hydrothermal features can you expect to see when you visit? Keep on reading to find out.

Hike Lassen Peak to stand atop an active volcano

Lassen Peak might just be the most interesting geologic feature in California. Not only is it the largest plug dome volcano in the world, but it's also the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range. The last time this volcano erupted in 1915, it caused major destruction to the area as it released lava and plumes of ash that traveled as far as 200 miles away. Since this is one of only two volcanoes in the contiguous U.S. that erupted in the 20th century, it is closely monitored to detect any signs of potential eruptions.

Visitors can hike to the summit of Lassen Peak via the Lassen Peak Trail. With a 2,000-foot elevation gain, this is a strenuous trek. However, the trail is well maintained, making it suitable for most ages and fitness levels. The views at the summit are hugely rewarding as you'll get stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and even Mt. Shasta. Even more fascinating, you'll be able to discern the impact this volcano's last eruption had on the surrounding area.

Where to find Lassen's best and strangest features

In the southwestern region of Lassen Volcanic National Park, you'll find a landscape featuring rugged volcanic formations, craters, and steaming vents but also equally serene lakes and streams. Hike the Bumpass Hell trail to reach the largest hydrothermal area of the park. Here, you'll find an otherworldly scene where steam hisses, colorful boiling pools abound, and a distinct sulfur scent hangs in the air, reminding visitors of the active volcanic terrain beneath their feet. Alternatively, you can also drive to Sulphur Works, the most accessible hydrothermal area of the park and equally fascinating to see.

Heading a little further east to Warner Valley, you'll encounter a trio of hydrothermal wonders: Boiling Springs Lake, Devil's Kitchen, and the Terminal Geyser. While this last feature is not a true geyser, Terminal Geyser emits hot steam from deep underground. Head further east into the valley, and you'll find the next two features. Boiling Springs Lake constantly bubbles and ripples due to underlying volcanic activity. Finally, there's Devil's Kitchen, which earned its name from the mud pots you'll find bubbling around the grey-blue hot springs steaming fumaroles. However, we don't think you'd want to eat anything that came out of this particular kitchen!