Did you know the pacific northwest is full of volcanoes + craters, courtesy of a very explosive history with Mother Nature? Yea, it is. I mean, I survived high school, I do have some smarts so I am aware of the fact there is a lot of tectonic activity on the west coast. I just had no idea how much volcanic activity there was over here + how much it affected the landscape. Here, let me show you…
Lassen Volcanic National Park
When I created our van route I didn’t even know Lassen Volcanic National Park existed…turns out there are a lot more national parks then I had ever guessed, which is awesome! Tanya was talking about it randomly + I heard “volcano”. Well, obviously we need to go check that out! We didn’t have a ton of time to detour over to Northern California but we made it work. Arriving in the afternoon we hit up a park volunteer for some “get away from the people” advice. I swear we aren’t haters, but there is something kind of awesome about checking out the lesser known areas of popular places!
We ended up with a game plan that took us on a drive through the main areas of the park with a quick stop for a waterfall hike. Once we got to the northern exit of the park we veered east + looped back into the park at a much more remote area. We had plans to camp in the National Forest just outside the park but freaked ourselves out to the point of “nope, nope, nope, nope…not sleeping here!”. Rather than jump at every single tickle of sound we decided to suck it up + hit up the park’s campground. We discovered flush toilets + running water in all the bathrooms…totally worth van life next door to the drunk RV’ers!
The next morning we were up quite early for a hike up Cinder Cone, a crater we could venture into. I think our initial plan involved some running but we snagged an “interpretive guide” pamphlet + all bets were off…it was an informative hike! We went up the main route, hiking into the crater + dropped down the backside so we could eyeball the Fantastic Lava Fields [real name, no joke!]. It was a really cool hike — worth the “why do we keep sliding backwards” frustration on the trek up. Also, who knew I was so into volcanoes?! They are freaking awesome, btw!
Crater Lake National Park
After our trek up the Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park we headed north…we had friends in Bend, Oregon + we heard there might be a hot shower up for grabs! Crater Lake National Park was just a short bit out of our way so we decided to make it “on the way” instead. The PNW had a decent winter so a good portion of the road around Crater Lake was still closed. Bummer. But, this also meant we would be able to spend less time in park + more time in Bend. Okay, fine. We still drove around the open road + stopped a few times for “omg, it’s so blue” gawking at the lake because…omg, it’s so blue!
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
There is something especially awesome about social media when you’re on the road — yes, it does get in the way of just being in the wilderness, but it can also point in the direction of something really cool you would have otherwise missed. Take Newberry National Volcanic Monument, for example. I had never heard of it before but as soon as the internet saw we were going from Crater Lake to Bend we got a handful of “go see Newberry” recommendations. While we didn’t make the stop on our drive into Bend [burgers + fries were waiting for us!] I did drag Natalie back down to check out the Newberry Caldera.
We may not have done the best job of picking a trail to hike — it only gave us one quick view of the two lake-filled craters below us — but we still got to check out some awesome trails. It was beautiful. Even the forested climb up the long switchbacks was amazing. Plus, you can never go wrong when you’re catching up with friends on the trails. Even better, Natalie got a chance to scope out some awesome mountain biking routes for future use…is bikabling a thing? It should be!
I seriously have no idea what is so fascinating about volcanoes, but I love them. Before heading down to the Newberry Caldera we ventured onto some remote forest service roads + accidentally discovered fields of lava fields. Mind blown. It was incredible. We’d drive around a bend in the road then bam…the forest would suddenly reveal heaps of black, glossy lava rocks. So worth being lost for an hour…
Even if you don’t have all giddy about volcanoes, if you’re in the PNW you need to check out some of these volcanic areas…if only because the hikes themselves are really cool!