The dry, smoldering, treeless terrain within this 106,000-acre national park stands in stunning contrast to the cool, green conifer forest that surrounds it. That’s the summer; in winter tons of snow ensure you won’t get too far inside its borders. Still, entering the park from the southwest entrance is to suddenly step into another world. The lavascape offers a fascinating glimpse into the earth’s fiery core. In a fuming display the terrain is marked by roiling hot springs, steamy mud pots, noxious sulfur vents, fumaroles, lava flows, cinder cones, craters and crater lakes.
In earlier times the region was a summer encampment and meeting point for Native American tribes, namely the Atsugewi, Yana, Yahi and Maidu. They hunted deer and gathered plants for basketmaking here. Some indigenous people still live nearby and work closely with the park to help educate visitors on their ancient history and contemporary culture.