Several hundred thousand years ago, ancient stratovolcano Mt. Tehama blew forming Brokeoff Mountain. Experts suggest Tehama’s explosion matched the destructive proportions of Mt. Saint Helens’ 1980 eruption. Erosion from melting glaciers and volcanic activity has left Brokeoff with a steep north face that appears to have ‘broken off’ from another formation, hence its name.
Lassen Peak hogs a lot of the attention centered on Lassen Volcanic National Park. However, visitors to the area ought not overlook Brokeoff. Sitting only about four miles from Lassen Peak, 9,235-foot Brokeoff Mountain provides hikers with a slightly more challenging haul. Visitors can easily access the mountain’s trailhead near Lassen’s southwest entrance.
For sheer beauty and rugged mountain scenery the Brokeoff trail is one of the best in Lassen. The trail climbs steadily through open meadows and forest for two miles and then through scattered hemlocks and finally above timberline to the top. At the west end of the mountain just before the last half mile of the climb, there is a good view of Mt. Shasta. From the top of the mountain there are good views of Lassen Peak, Conard, Chaos Crags, Diller, Shasta, and other mountains of the vicinity.
Directions To Trailhead: From I-5 heading south, get off on exit 649 in Red Bluff. Turn left and continue until you reach SR 36, turn left. Head about 45 miles into the town of Mineral and turn left on Highway 89 (you’ll see plenty of Lassen NP signage). Keep going on 89 for a little over four miles. Turn right into the parking area when you see the “Post 2 Brokeoff Mt” sign. Cross the road to get to the trailhead. It’s just before the southwest entrance. A $10 parking fee is required as you’re within park boundaries.
Distance: 6.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous, nicely maintained and easy to follow
You begin atop a small tributary of Mill Creek (which you’ll parallel for about 1.5 miles) and head down a valley to Brokeoff Mountain’s southeast. The first two-and-a-half miles of the route are the most difficult due to steepness. In terms of scenery, the initial section of the trail traverses an overgrown area with small scrubs and wildflowers. Soon, you enter a somewhat dense pine forest.
About a mile from the trailhead, you’ll cross the tributary. As you stroll through increasingly light pine woodlands and then lush meadows, you ascend via a series of steep switchbacks until you get to a valley where you spot the unobstructed summit for the first time. Unfortunately, you still have over a thousand feet of climbing left. The path keeps right on the mountain’s north side for a short distance until it crosses to the left. Shortly after, the route starts to ascend again crisscrossing still sparser forests. Snowdrifts kick off the final piece of the trail.
On the final burst to the summit, hikers encounter rockier, more barren terrain. You may be able to catch glimpses of Lake Almanor to the south. Soon, the trail directs you to a long switchback, which makes a final turn east to the small plateau on the summit. A panoramic view from Brokeoff Mountain’s peak provides incredible views of the Coast Range to the west, Mt. Shasta and more notably, Lassen Peak. Be sure to bring cold weather gear as the summit can be quite chilly at times.
The trail is considered one of the toughest in the park, though also one of the most rewarding. Hiking boots are recommended as the trail traverses a variety of terrain from volcanic sand to rocky outcrops. The one-half mile elevation gain and distance of the trail require a great deal of physical exertion to overcome, but the views at the top can’t be matched.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine