The recent eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland certainly captured the world’s attention, as have volcanoes throughout history. Tourists have long had an enduring fascination with volcanoes, as visitors flock to sites as diverse as Italy’s Pompeii, which was buried by the 1st century eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, and Washington state’s Mt. St. Helens, which famously and violently erupted in 1980.
In North America, the Pacific Northwest has been significantly shaped by its volcanic history. In fact, there are stunning calderas, lava tube caves and bubbling hot springs throughout the region – all connected to the area’s volcanic activity. And the Cascade Range is home to a 700-mile string of active volcanoes, from Mount Rainier to Mount Hood to Mount Shasta. As a result, it’s possible to put together a road trip that takes in some of the continent’s most spectacular volcanic scenery. I did just that in a recent article for Examiner.com, with a journey that stretches from Washington to northern California.
Here is an excerpt that covers the latter part of the road trip, from southern Oregon down through northern California:
From Crater Lake, your tour continues south into California along the two-state Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. You’ll pass through Klamath Falls, Oregon, and then cross into California. If you like lava tube caves, then you’ll love your next stop at Lava Beds National Monument. The park contains hundreds of caves and more than 30 different lava flows, some from two million years ago. About two dozen caves have marked entrances and trails. The monument also includes a large selection of American Indian rock art.Soon after departing Lava Beds, you’ll find your gaze fixed upon 14,179-foot Mount Shasta, which last erupted in 1786 and is the second highest peak in the Cascades. For centuries this mountain has attracted spiritual seekers, from American Indians to modern day mystics. One of the best ways to enjoy the view is from 15-mile Everitt Memorial Highway, which begins in the charming town of Mt. Shasta and climbs to about 7,800 feet.You won’t lack for natural beauty as you continue your drive, particularly at the McCloud River Waterfalls in McArthur-Burney Falls State Park, which President Theodore Roosevelt once called “the eighth wonder of the world.” But our tour concludes at Lassen Volcanic National Park. The 10,457-foot Lassen Peak is the southernmost of the Cascade volcanoes and it erupted powerfully as recently as 1915.Lassen Park Road is a scenic 30-mile drive through the landscape. There are also more than 150 miles of hiking trails. A popular one is the 3-mile roundtrip to Bumpass Hell, where you’ll see the park’s largest concentration of hydrothermal features, including steaming pools and boiling mudpots. This display of bubbling passions just beneath the surface of the earth is a fitting end to our captivating volcanic tour of the Pacific Northwest.