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Hiking: Northern California

What's Bubbling at Lassen's Devils Kitchen

July 12, 1998|JOHN McKINNEY

Two hydrothermal areas beckon hikers to Lassen Volcanic National Park. From the Drakesbad trail head, paths lead to Devils Kitchen and Boiling Springs Lake. This walk is not accessible from the park road (California 89) or main entrances, but it's worth the circuitous drive to the trail head.

Bubbling mud pots along Hot Springs Creek gave Devils Kitchen its name. Paths and footbridges link the hot attractions. Rising steam heats Boiling Springs Lake to a near-constant 125 degrees. Its yucky, yellow-brown color is a result of minerals, particularly iron oxide, in suspension. From steam vents waft hydrogen sulfide fumes, greeting hikers with a rotten-egg smell.

Boiling Spring Nature Trail is an excellent 39-stop self-guided interpretive path. The trail loops through the thermal area.

The springs were tapped for a spa in the 1860s by Edward R. Drake. For nearly a century, Drakesbad was a private resort. Now Drakesbad Guest Ranch belongs to the national park and is operated by a concessionaire. Alas, the pools are for guests only.

Directions to the trail head: From California 36 in Chester, turn north on Warner Valley Road. Drive 16 miles to Warner Valley Campground, then a half-mile to the trail head. Call ahead for road and trail conditions. Most will still have snow on them through mid-August, according to park rangers.

The hike: Head south on the Pacific Crest Trail, soon reaching and crossing Hot Springs Creek to a lodgepole-pine-shaded picnic area. A short walk brings you to a three-way trail junction. An upper and lower trail lead to Devils Kitchen while Boiling Springs Lake Nature Trail (PCT) heads south to Boiling Springs Lake.

The path to Devils Kitchen crosses Hot Springs Creek, then weaves through Drakesbad Meadow. Next it enters a forested area before reaching the austere terrain of Devils Kitchen. Explore half a mile's worth of trails amid steaming springs and fumaroles, then return the way you came.

From the above-mentioned three-way junction, Boiling Springs Nature Trail (PCT) ascends gently through a Jeffrey-pine and white-fir forest. Numbered posts on the nature path are keyed to the park service pamphlet. You'll circle the lake before retracing your steps back to the trail head.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Devils Kitchen, Boiling Springs Lake Nature Trails

WHERE: Lassen Volcanic National Park.

DISTANCE: To Devils Kitchen is 4.4 miles round trip; Boiling Springs Lake is 2.5 miles round trip.

TERRAIN: Unique thermal area.

HIGHLIGHTS: Steaming Hot Springs Creek, colorful shoreline of Boiling Springs Lake.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Moderate

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Superintendent, Lassen Volcanic National Park, P.O. Box 100, Mineral, CA 96063; tel. (530) 595-4444.

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