Cross-Country Ski to Sulphur Works: The Green Circle Trail I Always Dreamed Of
On the second day of our trip to Lassen, Curtis and I decided to ditch the windy, wet Manzanita Lake entrance and head south. The Northern California Snowshoe Routes book hadn’t really mentioned anything about this, but I had read online that you could cross country ski up the road to Sulphur Works – which sounded cool.
The drive to the southern entrance to Lassen is beautiful, and it wasn’t raining! I think the weather was still just as crappy up at Manzanita Lake that day, but here at the southern entrance to Lassen it was like a temporary dream – sun and clouds and mountains of fluffy snow.
The southern part of the park is much more avalanche prone, which is why I believe it did not come up on my radar when researching places to snow camp. Nothing can ruin a nice snow camping trip quite like a deadly avalanche. But for a winter day trip… even one as short as we did, worth the drive. I am sure it is magical in the summer, but in the winter it was like a frozen dream.
Cross Country Ski to Sulphur Works this Winter, Lassen National Park
Trailhead: The route is the same as the summer, except all plowing of the road stops at the visitor’s center parking lot – Take exit 36 from I5 and continue east for 45-some miles. At the national park sign (hwy 89) turn left and continue the final 5 miles to the parking lot. Map
Distance: 2.5 miles, very gradual ascent. For map click the image at right.
The best thing about this ski trip is that the start of the trail involves climbing the snow bank, excavated from the sidewalk near the visitor’s center, where you then pop out at roof height surrounded by a now fully visible landscape. Before you were blind, wondering if this is the road – or just a bunch of people bring their kids up to sled somewhere, and now it is obvious that this is the road. It’s just under a thick layer of snow. Also kids are sliding up here too.
After passing the sledding hill portion the ski tracks continue on to leave the deep deep post holes boots behind. It would be futile to try this route without the aid of skis or snowshoes, sink up to waist height on most steps. It seems like most people ski and many of the snowshoers actually obey the “stay out of the ski tracks” sign. Not everyone, but more than did on the Chaos Jumbles/Emigrant Lake trail.
The road is an easy grade up to Sulphur Works, which you will smell before you see. The mudpot is along the side of the road, boiling away, and steam rises from snowless rockfaces as we stop to enjoy the view.
Beyond Sulphur Works the road becomes steeper, and it happened at that point that the clouds started closing. Today it was snow, not rain, but considering the drive home we decided to turned back. Maybe someday we will come back to snow camp (or normal camp!) at Lassen – but equally intriguing is snow shoe hike out of this area to Forest Lake. Be sure to check-in with the Ranger at the Kohm Yah-Mah-Nee visitor center as you come in – they will be able to tell you the latest trail reports and avalanche dangers.
More photos from this picturesque little ski trip below: