Monday, September 19, 2011

Paradise Meadow Hike - Lassen National Park

          The trailhead for Paradise Meadows is located a few miles north of Summit Lake along the main park road. We pulled up to the trailhead where there were only a few cars in the lot.
          We crossed the street and started off on a relatively flat trail that skirts the edge of Hat Lake. Over the years Hat Lake has filled in with sediment and is on its way to becoming a meadow. We passed a naturalist lead native plant group who were admiring some of the numerous varieties of blooming wildflowers. The group accounted for most of the cars at the trailhead and we would only see a few more people throughout our hike.
          The relatively flat trail helped warm up our muscles before we started the initial climb. There is a 600’ total elevation gain to reach the meadow but with the many views of cascading Hat Creek we hardly noticed. I bypassed any photo opportunities of Hat Creek temporarily in hopes of better lighting on the return hike.
          After about a mile and a half the trail levels out before reaching picturesque Paradise Meadow set in a cirque rimmed with scree scattered embankments. The effort to reward ratio on this hike is quite good.
          The official trail ends at the entrance of the meadow with Hat creek snaking its way gently through the middle. We wanted to walk to the far end so instead of tromping through the delicate meadow we skirted the eastern edge on solid ground. When we emerged from the forested area Lassen Peak was looming in the distance with dark clouds building all around.

Paradise Meadow

          Lupine were quite abundant throughout the meadow which added a splash of color to the landscape.

Lots of Lupine - Paradise Meadow

Paradise Meadow

Creek Bend

          We ran into a nice couple from Sacramento Valley with whom we chatted with for some time exchanging camping destinations and killer hike ideas. We relaxed in the meadow watching as the skies grew darker and darker. We could smell the storm coming and before long we could hear it too. Thunder claps began echoing throughout the range like warning shots. We made our way slowly back to the trail and began our descent. Thunder continued to roll and all the while we wondered if and when the rain was going to fall.
          The rain held off long enough for us to stop for a quick bite to eat and for me to take some photos of a wildflower strewn cascade along Hat Creek.

Hat Creek Cascade

Hat Creek Cascade

Lonely Leopard Lilies

Hat Creek from the Paradise Meadow Trail

          Just after putting our packs back on the rain started falling. We donned our rain jackets and continued down the trail. Although the rain increased in intensity, with our jackets and the tree cover we remained fairly dry.
          Just before reaching the trailhead we took a use path towards the remnants of Hat Lake.
          The rain continued to fall lightly as we returned to our car and the now empty trailhead.

(Click HERE for a map of the Paradise Meadow Hike)

For more Lassen Hiking resources visit Lassen Hiking Association

(Click HERE to read more about DAY 2 of our Lassen Trip)

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