Mount Harkness

Chester, California

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Gazing down into the seemingly benign crater on the top of Mount Harkness, where the soil is just beginning to show its fertility by supporting a smattering of scraggly silverleaf lupine, it’s hard to imagine that this once was an active shield volcano. It oozed viscous lava of the type that pours out of the volcanoes on Hawaii, which has resulted in its broad stance. Once that relatively gentle phase of its volcanism ended, Mount Harkness birthed a cinder cone, which spewed the crumbling red rock that now adorns its slopes. These days, the mountain is a spectacular destination for hikers, its fiery past cloaked in stately evergreen forests and busy meadows of wildflowers. A lonely fire lookout stands atop the mountain, on the southern rim of the sloping crater. From here, a park service sentinel watches the forested slopes surrounding Lassen Peak for signs of fire. Hikers enjoy the same 360-degree views, looking west to the barren hulk of Lassen, south past Lake Almanor, east to the distant Sierra Buttes, and north to the Cinder Cone and the twin Prospect Peaks. Highlights: A hike to the top of one of the friendliest mountains in the park leads to great panoramic vistas from the lookout tower.

Mount Harkness Professional Review and Guide

"Gazing down into the seemingly benign crater on the top of Mount Harkness, where the soil is just beginning to show its fertility by supporting a smattering of scraggly silverleaf lupine, it’s hard to imagine that this once was an active shield volcano. It oozed viscous lava of the type that pours out of the volcanoes on Hawaii, which has resulted in its broad stance. Once that relatively gentle phase of its volcanism ended, Mount Harkness birthed a cinder cone, which spewed the crumbling red rock that now adorns its slopes. These days, the mountain is a spectacular destination for hikers, its fiery past cloaked in stately evergreen forests and busy meadows of wildflowers. A lonely fire lookout stands atop the mountain, on the southern rim of the sloping crater. From here, a park service sentinel watches the forested slopes surrounding Lassen Peak for signs of fire. Hikers enjoy the same 360-degree views, looking west to the barren hulk of Lassen, south past Lake Almanor, east to the distant Sierra Buttes, and north to the Cinder Cone and the twin Prospect Peaks. Highlights: A hike to the top of one of the friendliest mountains in the park leads to great panoramic vistas from the lookout tower."

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Chester
Distance: 5.6
Trail Type: Loop/Lollipop
Skill Level: Difficult
Duration: Day hike
Season: Best July to late September
Trailhead Elevation: 6,800 feet
Top Elevation: 8,046 feet
Local Contacts: Lassen Volcanic National Park
Local Maps: USGS Mount Harkness; Lassen Volcanic National Park maps by the National Park Service, Earthwalk Press, and Wilderness Press; USDAFS Lassen National Forest

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Jun 2018