The southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range, Lassen Peak is the centerpiece of Lassen Volcanic National Park, located approximately halfway between Mount Shasta and Lake Tahoe. Lassen Peak draws climbers and skiers from mid-spring through early summer to its southern aspects, and access is user friendly and easy due to Lassen’s Summer Trail parking lot, just 2,000 feet below the summit.
The Lassen Park Road must be open to reach the Summer Trail lot, and this access varies from year to year depending on the snowpack. Most parties climbing or skiing Lassen coordinate their trip with this opening. Prior to opening the highway to motorized vehicles, the park service opens the road to cyclists. If you are interested in experiencing a unique and uncrowded Lassen ski experience, the 7-mile bike ride that gains 1,800 in elevation from the Kohm-Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center to the Summit Trail lot is a good way to do it, and you’ll almost certainly have the mountain to yourself. Note that this trip report references the Summit Trail parking area as the trailhead.
Skiing Lassen Peak’s east face is relatively straightforward because much of the ascent parallels the Summer Trail. From the Summer Trail parking lot, head northeast and gain a small bench that is sparsely populated with trees. Contour around the mountain heading towards the east face, leaving the trees behind. Heading towards the east face keeps you on snow longer as the south ridge melts out earlier due to it's south-facing aspect and enables you to see your descent options once you get through the trees. Once you see the east face, switchback up back towards south ridge and the Summit Trail. Continue up this ridge and stay slightly right of the ridge crest to remain on snow for as far as possible. The southwest side of the ridge loses snow quickly in spring.
Continue up the ridge on snow as far as possible. Depending on the snow year and your timing, the upper section of the ridge may be completely dry. If this is the case, merge onto the Summer Trail and follow switchbacks up to Lassen’s summit platueau. On a clear day the views of Mount Shasta and Lassen’s subpeaks are phenomenal. To the west lie Eagle Peak, Mount Diller, and Brokeoff Mountain, the latter two of which once formed Mout Tehema, a stratovolcano that was carved away during the ice age.
Continue northeast toward Lassen’s summit block and either finish the short hike up to the true summit or choose your line on the east face. A large snowfield offers an open and slightly less steep option, while a chute east of the snowfield provides a steeper descent.
Upon descending, track your location relative to where you initially gained the south ridge and either climb back up for another lap or traverse back to the parking area for your car or bike.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.