Snowshoeing at Lassen Park
● By Sue Ralston
A Shoe-InFebruary 2015
By Sue Ralston
For many North State residents, Lassen Park brings to mind green meadows with spring wildflowers in bloom, summer camping and leisurely kayaking at Manzanita Lake. But in the winter, a hush descends upon the park, and the trees are trimmed in white. Dirt trails are now blanketed with sparkling, powdery snow—perfect for those longing for some winter recreation.
Winter activities in Lassen range from cross-country skiing to backcountry camping to a simpler, more accessible and family-friendly sport: snowshoeing. It has oft en been said that if you can walk, you can snowshoe. But for those who’d like a little help with technique before venturing out on their own, ranger-led snowshoe excursions are held in Lassen Park each Saturday and Sunday until April 5, weather—and snow levels—permitting.
Katie and Paul Connaughton have taken their 6-year-old daughter, Charlotte, out on many nature excursions, and they all enjoy snowshoeing. “Try to go when the weather is good, especially if you have little kids," Katie says. "If your kids are warm, then they’re happy. If they get cold, it’s a miserable experience.” She recommends dressing them in warm layers, bringing pocket warmers, snacks, and an insulated container of hot chocolate. The Connaughtons started early with their first child. “We took Charlotte up to Mt. Shasta when she was only a
year old and in a backpack. We snowshoed up to the Sierra Club cabin near Bunny Flat. We’ve also gone up to Castle Lake, kind of dragging Charlotte in a sled. It’s a real gradual ascent, mostly flat.” Her experience has taught her that starting early is best. “Charlotte did so well hiking over the summer that I think she’ll actually snowshoe this year.” The Connaughtons will put their 10-month-old son in a backpack, making it a true family affair.
Those who have never been snowshoeing might benefit from Lassen’s free ranger-led walks. Rangers instruct participants on beginning snowshoeing techniques, winter mountain travel safety and outdoor survival tips. They recommend that you wear warm boots, dress in layers for winter conditions and be prepared for unexpected weather changes. The walks are free, last two hours (with lots of stopping), and snowshoes are provided for a suggested donation of $1. The walks are open to those age 8 and older and depart from the southwest entrance of the park.
Solitude and beauty are available to those willing to go off the beaten path a little bit. A fun activity for kids is looking out for animals or their tracks. Lassen is home to more than 50 mammal species, including coyotes, foxes, weasels, skunks, raccoons—and perhaps for those who watch carefully—bobcats or mountain lions.
And while winter programs aren’t offered at Manzanita Lake, it’s an ideal walk for those who want a relatively short, always scenic trek. Th e Manzanita Lake Snowshoe Loop is 1.6 miles around the lake, at an elevation of 5,800 feet, and takes an average of an hour and a half. With children, shorter walks work best, says Katie. “We go up to Manzanita Lake, or go out a Forest Service Road, out and back. Th e south side is kind of interesting because the terrain is more varied. Try not to be overly ambitious with the length of the trip. Start small so you don’t get halfway out and find that the kids want to be done right now.”
Ranger-led snowshoe walks start at the Lassen Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at 1:30 pm each Saturday and Sunday through April 5. Snowshoes are available for a requested $1 donation and are only available for ranger-led walks. Visitors with their own snowshoes are welcome. Prepare for moderate exertion at 7,000 feet. Call first for road conditions and closures or check the website.
Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center Southwest entrance of the park on Highway 89, 4 miles north of the junction of Highway 36 and Highway 89.
Snowshoe Rentals: Available at Hermit's Hut in Redding and Sports Ltd. in Redding and Chico