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California Adventures

Brokeoff Mountain: A Volcanic Experience

The California Adventure District: an incredible 33,000 square mile region, filled with wildernesses, national forests, national parks, waterfalls, caves, and plenty of mountainous terrains.

Zooming into a particular National Park of this region is the focus of our next adventure.

A special experience awaits for explorers adventuring to the east of Redding and Red Bluff. Going east on Route 44 or Route 36 finds travelers quickly gaining elevation out of the Central Valley and into a new environment.

This environment is obvious from the streets of Redding. Even just sitting at the Cypress Ave/Bechelli Ln intersection, that chaotic cluster of mountains commands attention. In the winter, its white glow shines in astonishment on a clear day.

That chaotic mass is Lassen Volcanic National Park — a fixture of the California Adventure District and a playground full of exploration.

Are You Volcano Ready?

General Stats:

  • Trailhead Elevation: 6,635 ft (2,022 m)
  • Elevation Gain: 2,600 ft (792 m)
  • Summit Elevation: 9,235 ft (2,815 m)
  • Trail Type: Out-and-Back
  • Distance: 7 miles (11.3 km)
  • Difficulty: Intermediate/Hard

Samuel Furey, of the CAD team, enjoys the views of the California Adventure District.

The CAD team is doing the exploration today. Join us on our objective to the top of Brokeoff Mountain, in Lassen Volcanic National Park. With a roundtrip mileage of 7 miles, an elevation gain of 2,600 feet, and heights of 9,200 feet, this winter ascent is California Adventure District’s most envied winter snowshoe and alpine ski touring peaks.

We set off from our home base in Redding, CA. Lassen National Park has several entrances, with two being the most popular from Redding or Red Bluff (in the Central Valley). Brokeoff Mountain’s Trailhead is 90 minutes from Redding and is easily accessible from the south entrance, via Mineral (closest town) and Red Bluff. Because Mineral is an unincorporated town with little to no amenities, Red Bluff or Redding are the spots to fill up gas and get any last-minute trail items.

  • For any gear, check out Redding’s local outdoor shops, Hermits Hut and Sports LTD. They have all the necessary gear to rent or buy!

For a proper fuel up, we stop in at Country Organics for a delicious smoothie bowl (granola added!), and nutrition bars. This is a favorite store of ours because it has nutritiously dense food in a deli and juice bar format, as well as a grocery store to find snacks and produce. Our favorite food for lunch tends to be ready-made Everyday Daal packets and a rice/bean mix. Additionally, Organic Food Bar can be found here and has the best tasting protein bar I’ve ever had.

No Car Ride is Wasted

The Sacramento River Bend Area is a great representation of California’s foothill landscape during the winter. These are classic views of Lassen Volcanic National Park in the far distance of this photo.[/caption]

Within 30 minutes, we are at Red Bluff — turning off I-5. Soon after, another turn onto Route 36 is the ticket out of the valley and into the hills. This is the highway to Lassen National Park. The elevation is gained quickly up these pasture lands. Valley Oak trees fill the landscape, with homesteads and ranches nestled along hillsides.

The views here are especially notable in the spring, as the lush landscape contrasts with the distant Klamath Mountains to the north and west. Mount Shasta, looming farther north, commanding attention on frequent vista points. And of course, front and center up the road is the volcanic mass of Lassen’s Cascadia.

As we close in on the park, the landscape shows its prominence. Pine forests line up as far as the eye can see. The road meanders through steep terrain, with mountain ridges diving down into river canyons on both sides.

At Mineral, a historic mining and logging road, there are forest service cabins, the Mineral Lodge (which includes a restaurant and general store), a post office, and a small gas station.

A large meadow and sub-alpine lake stretch for the length of the town on the other side of the road. In keeping with the tenants of the California Adventure District, I am constantly reminded of how much square mileage of beauty lies in these mountain hideouts.

The historic Mineral Lodge in Mineral, CA. Feel free to grab snacks or a meal after the climb, or even stay a night at the lodge.

After a few miles out of Mineral, and into Lassen National Forest, a left turn heads onto snowy (but plowed) Route 89. This very special route is the main road into the national park and links both entrances (Route 36 from Red Bluff and Route 44 from Redding). At this time of year, the heavy snowpack blocks the linkages between entrances (**note that a National Park Pass is required for parking at the trailhead**)

Please keep in mind, this trailhead can be tricky to find. There might be other cars parked at the turn-off, but this section is small and the sign indicating the trailhead can be submerged by high snowbanks. In any case, using Google Maps or a specialized trail app such as AllTrails or Avenza on a smartphone will make things run smoothly.

Speaking of trails? At the trailhead is a good time to fire up that trail app for Brokeoff Mountain. We make our preparations — grabbing gear, stuffing our packs with a meal, snacks, and water, as well as admiring the surrounding volcanic landscape.

We make sure our day-packs and our wear contain these things:

  • Daypack (20-30 liters)
  • Water Reservoir or Bottles
  • Hiking Clothes: hiking or climbing pants, shirts (base layer), soft or hard shell jacket, fleece sweater, hiking socks, gloves, balaclava, and a warm hat.
  • Hiking boots
  • Snowshoes (preferably with the mountaineer flip-up lever in the back)
  • Skiing equipment (as an option)
  • Trekking Poles
  • Jetboil and Propane (in case the group needs to boil water in an emergency)
  • GPS
  • SunGlasses (Glacier Glasses preferred)
  • Battery Pack/Solar Charger
  • Sunscreen

In regards to snowshoes, this is the most friendly transportation up and down the mountain. For alpine skiers (which some of us are doing), this method is the most efficient — using skins to ascend up and then downhill skiing on the descent. The views will be thoroughly enjoyed either way!

As a reminder to us and our readers, safety is of the utmost importance — ‘Know before you go.’

  • Know the weather and avalanche conditions!
  • Know your equipment!
  • Know your (and your climbing partner(s)) abilities!

There are no technical moves on this mountain route, but there are still risks that are inherent to any mountain experience. Most importantly, if you come prepared with the proper equipment and expectations, the summit can be attainable!

Location: Located in the SW corner of the park, and accessed through Lassen Volcanic National Park’s southern entrance.


  • From I-5, take Antelope Rd Exit for Red Bluff and go east.
  • After about a mile toward the edge of town, turn left (east) on HWY 36.
  • Take 36 for about 45 miles, and turn left onto HWY 89 into Lassen National Park.
  • Follow this road for approximately 4 miles to reach a pull-off on the right-hand side of the highway.
  • This pull-off is just after the park boundary but before the entrance station. Unless they are snow-covered, there are signs that indicate the beginning of the hike.

Note: **National Park Pass Required**

Pit Stop: Country Organics, in Redding, CA

Brokeoff Mountain Trailhead

9 am. We start our approach at 6,635 feet, on the other side of the road from the parking lot. We anticipate this climb to take 6-7 hours, so this is a great alpine start and makes sure we are back by dusk.

The snow-packed trail begins with a steady grade, climbing through Cascadia’s classic pine woodland. The first mile is always tough, due to the lower oxygen content above 6,000 feet. Coming from Redding at 500 feet, our mind and body take a bit to adjust.

Once we hit our first views of Brokeoff Mountain’s protruding rock walls, inspiration is everywhere. This trail is considered one of the toughest in Lassen National Park, but its beauty is unrivaled and feels well-earned as we push ourselves above treeline.

The CAD Crew pushes on with the Brokeoff Mountain summit block looming in the distance. The top is obvious here and provides the motivation to continue on to new heights!

These climbs tend to feel like social excursions. We hold conversations about any number of topics and catch up on each other’s lives — all while gliding and tromping through the snow to the next vista point. This experience with fellow nature lovers makes the climb that much more enjoyable!

We continue to follow previous adventurer’s snow trails. The route follows relatively closely to the summer route, where it makes a line towards Brokeoff’s summit block and then skirts to the south towards a plateau.

Skiing/Snowshoeing up to the plateau. From this vantage point, one can see Lake Almanor (top-left) and the rest of Lassen National Park in the foreground.

We ascend up a ramp towards the ridge plateau, at 8,300 feet. Cumulus clouds dot the sky and a mid-day sunbeams across the white expanse. A climbing partner in our party, Galen, peeks his head above a rock outcrop as I take my first steps on the ridgeline. Here, to the west, the Sacramento Valley reveals itself for the first time — giving a glimpse of the views of the surrounding valley where Redding and Red Bluff reside.

This view is commanding on all sides. I look back from where we just ascended. Lassen National Park’s rocky landscape glistens. Further beyond, to the southeast, Plumas County’s massive Lake Almanor invites intrigue.

Of course, without further ado, the summit of Brokeoff Mountain’s south face is in sight. This south face is by far the most approachable route and displays gentler slopes compared to the rocky, forbidden nature of the other aspects.

Brokeoff Mountain’s south face is the most accessible and presents gentle slopes. From the plateau, we follow this route to the summit!

At this juncture, between the lower elevations and the summit, is where we take our final resting spot. At 8,300 feet, we’ve done 1,700 feet of elevation gain over 2.5 miles so far. The remaining mile has a 1,000-foot ascent to the summit — overlooking the entirety of Lassen National Park.

  • Remember to apply sunscreen here, as it is easier to get sunburn from the sun’s reflectance off the snow.

We take a moment to stop, processing the extensive view and reminding ourselves exactly why we decided to climb this ancient volcano.

Snow Views are The Best Views!

The last stretch of the climb brings us up above the treeline, traversing along the ridgeline to the summit. The incline increases significantly on this last section and requires switchbacks for both snowshoers and skiers. During this section, I am captivated by the snow-covered slopes and the juxtaposition of the valley below — adding to the surreal and expansive scenery.

The scenery is commanding, with rolling hills and plenty of elevation relief!

At the top of the next ridge is the centerpiece of Lassen National Park — Lassen Peak! Standing at 10,457 feet and 3 miles to the NE, it is even higher than Brokeoff Mountain and represents an incredible perspective.

  • For ideas on a separate adventure, there is a ridgeline that connects Brokeoff to Lassen, which includes Mount Diller, Pilot Pinnacle, Ski Heil Peak, and Eagle Peak.

This next ridgeline separates two cornices, with one being the taller Brokeoff summit. As is stated in the name, Brokeoff was formed by an eruption of Mount Tehama thousands of years ago. Consequently, the chaotic cluster of volcanic rock at Brokeoff features a couple of different sections.

Brokeoff’s buttress and cornice on its western slopes are special!

From the ridgeline, we make the final ascent due east. For perspective on the steepness of this late section, alpine skiers took off their skis and left them at this ridge. Fortunately, for how steep it is, it’s a short push.

Together, at 3:00 pm, we all find ourselves on this marvelous volcano. 9,236 feet of sheer, chaotic glory.

I am in complete heaven, staring at every dynamic view from this 360 panorama. The most obvious of these is Brokeoff’s western buttress and accompanying cornice, which reminds us of this changing, volcanic landscape. Mount Shasta, the crown jewel of the Cascade Volcanic Range (of which Lassen is a part of), looms in the distance to the north. There are also spectacular views of the surrounding Central Valley, Lake Almanor, Lake Helen (in Lassen NP), and the distant Trinity Alps to the west.

My eyes follow the ridge that dips below the summit and meanders across peaks all the way to striking Lassen Peak. Brokeoff Mountain’s summit is the perfect vantage point for gaining perspective on Lassen National Park. This region is a special experience and deserves its recognition in the national park system. Besides just peaks, there is a lot to explore here, from hydrothermal vents, caves, waterfalls, alpine lake viewing (and swimming), hundreds of miles of trails, and stargazing.

A big reason to explore Lassen National Park’s backcountry in the winter is the thrilling and awe-inspiring vista points obtained. These are just as immaculate as warmer season endeavors. White-capped peaks and ridges offer up impressive, hard-earned, and rewarding views.

Leah Furey, of the CAD Crew, standing in awe at Brokeoff Mountain’s summit. You can see Brokeoff’s cornice in the foreground, the Klamath Mountains in the backdrop, and Mount Shasta in the far distance to the tight.

Brokeoff Mountain’s western buttresses and accompanying cornices make for a compelling view![/caption]

For a winter day, it felt relatively warm. The summit tends to experience a chilly wind at times, so we always make sure to pack our extra thermal layers, such as a “puffy” jacket and warm gloves.

Even with the cold breeze, we take our time at the top: hanging out, eating our favorite snacks, taking photos and videos for memories, showing gratitude for each other, and just enjoying the views. These are moments I cherish. All the stress and business from the week is let out on the climb up and all that’s left are these sublime views. Just having this recreation within 90 minutes of my house is what makes the California Adventure District so awesome!

Overall, the winter version of Brokeoff Mountain Trail is a climb where new perspectives can be attained and limits can be pushed. This climb does create extra sensations and can be tough at times, but for the beginner looking to get into a snow adventure, this is a great mountain to start on. The advanced outdoor user will still find a fun objective, as their options such as skiing to make the adventure even more thrilling!

There aren’t many places in the world that can boast such awe-inspiring vantage points AND fewer crowds. The top of Brokeoff Mountain shows its great qualities, with a panorama of distinct views, a volcanic landscape, and iconic flavor. Consider Lassen National Park and the greater California Adventure District for your next adventure!

Before we go, we would like to round out this epic adventure with the alpine touring skis being put in action!

Downhill we go~

Samuel Furey skiing down in his alpine touring skis!

Watch the video of our adventure.

Getting There:

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The Trail

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