Out Back Discovery Route Info
The Lava Beds National Monument
Lava Beds National Monument is a land of turmoil, both geological and historical. Over the last half-million years, volcanic eruptions on the Medicine Lake shield volcano have created a rugged landscape dotted with diverse volcanic features. More than 700 caves, Native American rock art sites, historic battlefields and campsites, and a high desert wilderness experience await you!
Lava Beds is a truly remote park, in a corner of California most people never visit. Most roads into this area wind through mountains, and along rivers, and travel may take longer than expected. Services are few and far between and winter driving conditions can be encountered anytime between fall and spring.
However, the Lava Beds visitor is rewarded not only with a myriad of exciting outdoor opportunities, but with sweeping vistas, quiet places, dark night skies, and the opportunity to experience plenty of other outdoor adventures along the way.
If you can allot an extra day, or two, or three for your visit to Lava Beds and the surrounding area, you won't regret it!
The Lassen Volcanic national Park
The Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to steaming fumaroles, meadows freckled with wildflowers, clear mountain lakes, and numerous volcanoes. Jagged peaks tell the story of its eruptive past while hot water continues to shape the land. Lassen Volcanic offers opportunities to discover the wonder and mysteries of volcanoes and hot water for visitors willing to explore the undiscovered.
Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway a beautiful ride through volatile scenery
Outside, the temperature hovers around 95. But in here, it's a cool 46 degrees. I'd be happy to stay awhile, but Subway Cave, a one-third-mile-long lava tube in Lassen National Forest, has its drawbacks. For one thing, it's pitch-black, so when you enter cavernous Stubtoe Hall, there's a good chance you'll do just that.
Subway Cave, at the northeastern tip of California, is one of the sights along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway (www.volcaniclegacybyway.org/home), a 500-mile drive through some of the nation's most volatile scenery.
The volcano-to-volcano road trip begins at Lake Almanor, southeast of California's Lassen Volcanic National Park, and heads north, eventually ending near beautiful Crater Lake National Park in Oregon (www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm).
Along the way, travelers see Mt. Shasta's steep slopes soar to more than 14,000 feet, enjoy the 129-foot waterfall at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park (www.burney-falls.com), once described by Teddy Roosevelt as "the eighth wonder of the world," and explore the rugged landscape of Lava Beds National Monument (www.nps.gov/labe/index.htm).
The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway is one of just 27 All American Roads in the United States.
Don't forget to take a flashlight or, better yet, a headlamp, if you travel the volcanic byway. It's preferable to taking a fall in Stubtoe Hall.
The Trinity Alps
The Trinity Alps is the second largest wilderness area in California, the Trinity Alps Wilderness nearly doubled in size by the 1984 California Wilderness Act. In that same year, it was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System. It currently has over 600 miles of trails and embraces over 500,000 acres of land.
Chiseled granite peaks and alpine lakes dot the Trinity Alps Wilderness, with elevations from 2,000 feet in creek drainages to 9,000 feet at summits. This wilderness offers many different trails ranging from 1.5 miles to 15 miles at varying levels of difficulty.
IN the far reaches of Northern California, traffic rushes up and down the I-5 freeway corridor without a glimpse of the Trinity Alps, tucked just over the ridge to the west.
For most Californians, the notion of mountains conjures up the vast Sierra Nevada. In contrast, the Trinities are relatively pocket-sized. Sixty miles southwest of Mount Shasta and a five-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay area, the region exudes an off-the-beaten-path feel of a place that time is in the process of forgetting.
I have been in the Trinities in every season. The mountains empty out afterLabor Day, but they retain their beauty and they remain unspoiled. In years when winter arrives late, I have hiked there well into December. Later there is great cross-country skiing, which lasts until summer.
Lore has it that there are really three Trinities: red, green and white.
Driving up Highway 3 from the mountain hamlet of Weaverville, it is easy to find the red Trinities in slashes that the road chisels into the rock, revealing the rich hues of igneous peridotite soils found on the eastern slopes. Large swaths of the range provide the green, places where you can walk on seemingly endless vanilla-scented trails under a dense canopy of emerald firs and pines.
The crown jewels of this wilderness area are the white Trinities, named for the white granite reminiscent of the Sierras. They lie at the very heart of the mountains, reachable by car only over a 20-mile stretch of the mostly gravel Coffee Creek Road.
The public roadway ends at Big Flat Campground, where a trail begins that leads to the Caribou lakes — about a 10-mile hike away. Largely unknown until the early 1970s, when they appeared in a backpacking guide, the Caribous and surrounding lakes are now popular hiking and camping destinations. They are hidden behind Caribou Mountain, which can be viewed from Big Flat, a stunning mountain meadow near the trailhead.
From the same spot, you can also see a bit of the Sawtooth Ridge that snakes through the heart of the white Trinities, linking together a knife-edge serration of granite peaks overlooking more than a dozen lakes. In both ruggedness and splendor, the white Trinities compare favorably to America’s most beautiful and remote wilderness regions.
From Big Flat, a private road leads past a locked gate to Josephine Lake, hidden in a glacial cirque, or valley, underneath a granite crag that I had been told evoked comparisons to the Matterhorn. It is a view that is concealed from almost everyone. Tucked away inside the wilderness area and owned for decades by a small group of families, it has long had the forbidden flavor of a hidden treasure.
Settlers first came to the Trinities in numbers during the 1850s with the California gold rush, disturbing what for eons had been the summer hunting lands of the Wintu and several other tribes of American Indians. Today the Trinities still bear the scars of extensive gold mining operations, ranging from placer mining that rerouted river and stream beds to a scattering of abandoned mining tunnels, some of which were operated into the 1930s.
The miners were followed by the loggers, abetted by the patchwork quilt of private landholdings originally awarded to the railroad companies by the federal government in exchange for building the intercontinental railroads. In 1984 the region was set aside as the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area.
Weaverville, accessible from Highways 3 and 299, serves as the usual southern gateway to the Trinities. But there is also a shortcut. You can duck across a one-lane bridge at Lewiston, once a gold mining town, and save about 10 or 15 minutes on your way to a trailhead at Trinity Alps Resort, a 75-year-old family resort near a horse-pack station, that leads to Morris Meadows. A roughly mile-long mountain meadow and one of the Trinities’ most popular hiking destinations, it sits at an elevation of about 4,200 feet and is reached by a hike of about nine miles. It is below Smith Lake, one of the Trinities’ most beautiful lakes — accessible only by cross-country routes — and Sawtooth Peak, both at the heart of the white Trinities.
From the Scott Mountain summit, a logging road runs west to the border of the Trinity Alps Wilderness, marked by a locked gate. The road parallels the route of the Pacific Crest Trail, a hiking route that extends from Mexico to Canada. From Mount Lassen, the trail runs east-west to make a toe-touch in the Trinities before continuing north.