Boiling Springs Lake is one of several hydrothermal hikes available in Warner Valley, a quiet meadow and forest landscape tucked away from the main park road in the southeast corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The three-mile loop trail is listed as easy, but according to my tired legs, the terrain earns a moderate rating for the first half mile. The rocky, dusty path climbs steadily. I spot a pileated woodpecker high in a snag; the tree’s dead top like an arrow aimed at endless blue sky. A golden-mantled ground squirrel scampers across a stump, and I almost mistake it for a chipmunk before noting the absence of a black band across its eyes.
At the crossroads, hikers can take a left to Terminal Geyser along the east side of Boling Springs Lake, or go right towards the lake loop. I turn right and plunge into shade. The ground levels to its advertised stroll, and the sun dapples the path. Hints of hydrothermal activity become apparent as I near the forest’s edge: a ghost river runs dry beside the trail, the riverbed painted white by chemicals rushing through seasonal waters. Downed sugar pine cones are dusted with kaolinite, a mixture of calcium, potassium, sodium and silica, chemicals precipitated out of magma.
Vistas are often better after a hard-earned hike, yet the easy access does not diminish the splendor of Boiling Springs Lake. I am stunned as the lake emerges into view. The water is sea green, a vibrant hue photographs fail to capture. Iron-red earth encircles the lake, while islands of white, cracked mud rise from the calm waters. The placid surface belies the power of the restless earth below.
Steam from fumaroles, or steam vents, rises from the lake’s south side, reminding me this is not a place to swim, however enticing the green waters appear. Steam vents beneath the lake heat the water to about 125 degrees. Mudpots hiss and gurgle along the lake’s edges.
The sun dazzles along the water, and I almost miss noticing three deer: a mother and two fawns near the tree-lined shore. The auburn bark of incense cedar trees matches the iron in the rocks, and Douglas-fir and Ponderosa pine add to the surrounding greenery. Life is abundant here, despite the unusual environment.
The east side of Boiling Springs Lake offers views of Lassen Peak before the trail completes its short loop. Boiling Springs Lake is only one of the many discoveries awaiting you in Lassen Volcanic National Park. I invite you to explore my park - which is your park as well - and create your own stories and memories.