Manzanita Lake Loop Trail is a short, level trail circling a pristine mountain lake at the northern entrance of Lassen Volcanic National Park. During winter months the main road through the park, Highway 89, is closed after the visitor center, making this trail one of the only easily accessible snowshoe paths on the northern side of the park. The outstanding view of Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags makes this path perfect for first time visitors traveling through the area. Short length and minimal elevation change also makes it a great snowshoe for locals escaping the city.
During late fall, Manzanita Lake typically is not yet frozen over despite there being ample snow on the ground for snowshoeing. Before the ice has taken over, flocks of birds usually inhabit the shores and ferry across the lake. But don't let the birds on the lake distract you from seeing a bald eagle perched overhead. Lassen Volcanic National Park is a common winter migration area for these impressive birds as well as several others. American coot, great blue heron, double-crested cormorant, and Canada geese are just a few more of the species that can be seen around the lake.
As winter progresses the lake often freezes over completely, seemingly driving away some of the birds but not the incredible mountain views. The ice over Manzanita Lake may appear thick enough to walk across, but park authorities post signs of thin ice. No matter how thick the ice may appear, extreme caution should be taken before stepping foot on the ice. Of course, it is always best to remain on solid ground.
The magnificent Lassen Peak is considered one of the largest lava dome volcanoes on Earth and was one of two mountains to erupt in the 20th century in the contiguous United State, the other being Mount St. Helens. The youngest rock in California can be found atop Lassen Peak, a black dacite created during the last series of eruptions in 1915. Just north of Lassen Peak sits Chaos Crags, a cluster of five dacite domes that formed around 1,000 years ago.
Visitors specifically looking for the perfect view of Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags can check the Manzanita Lake webcam before departing to see a view of the lake and mountain that is updated every ten minutes. Attention to the weather is also important. It is common for this area to see temperatures well below freezing, and winds blowing off the lake can decrease the apparent temperature even further.
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.