Boiling Springs Lake and Terminal Geyser

Hike along a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail to find a warm creek, a hot lake, and a steaming vent in a lesser-traveled corner of Lassen.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
9.1 km
Ascent
325 m
Descent
326 m
Duration
2-3 hrs
Low Point
1.7 km
High Point
1.9 km
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
Boiling Springs Lake and Terminal Geyser Map

Description

This hike combines three distinct hydrothermal features in the Warner Valley area of Lassen, with a separate entrance from the rest of the national park, and therefore less busy. Hot Springs Creek, Boiling Springs Lake, and Terminal Geyser are each different kinds of hot-water sources boiling up from the ground.

The hike starts from Warner Valley trailhead on the Pacific Crest Trail, among grassy meadows alongside Hot Springs Creek. This stream flows as a mix of hot and cold water from many natural springs in the valley. It’s very acidic and not for drinking or soaking, however. Just enjoy the view, continuing along the trail and boardwalks, passing within sight of Drakesbad Guest Ranch, and ascending a wooded hillside.

Soon comes Boiling Springs Lake. The PCT grants an elevated view over it, but slightly bypasses the lake itself. You can get closer with a short detour. Beneath this silt-colored pond are many vents which constantly bubble up, and the surface often steams with their heat. Around the water’s edge are more hydrothermal features, including warm seeps and mud pots.

From Boiling Springs Lake, two variations of the PCT continue southward. The standard route goes up and over a broad ridge, while another stays at lower elevation on the side of the ridge. Views are better on the upper path, among scattered woodland with clearings of manzanita and wildflowers. You may want to take the lower, more thickly forested path on the return journey (as mapped here) to save some elevation gain. That way, you’ll also get different views of Boiling Springs Lake on the way back.

After the two variations rejoin on the other side of the ridge, a spur trail drops steeply away from the PCT to reach Terminal Geyser. The name is a misnomer, however, as this feature is actually what’s called a fumarole. The distinction is that a geyser periodically erupts with steam and liquid water, while a fumarole just constantly emits steam. So while you won’t see an eruption, you will see a billowing cloud and smell its sulphuric odors. From there, turn around and retrace the PCT, or take the lower variation to return to Boiling Springs Lake and then the trailhead.

Sources: http://www.lassenhiking.org/Hike-Pages/Terminal-Geyser/Terminal-Geyser.htm https://liveandlethike.com/2020/07/03/terminal-geyser-little-willow-lake-boiling-springs-lake-lassen-volcanic-national-park-ca/

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

May, June, July, August, September, October

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area